Several “public hearings” were held over the past few years to justify the two projects – at Chalong Circle and Bang Khu Junction – which together will cost taxpayers no less than B1.15 billion over the next two years. (See latest update here.)
At those hearings, successive governors, mayors, engineers and representatives from the Highways Department – among other stakeholders – were reported to be in agreement that such projects were necessary, that the “short-term pain would be worth the long-term gain”.
Absent at the hearings, however, were any “independent” urban planners qualified to provide an objective assessment about the actual causes and most practical solutions to Phuket’s traffic problems, and whether or not such roadworks would be the most effective tact in tackling traffic woes.
Also not represented at the hearings was the voice of the majority of voters in a recent Phuket News poll about solving Phuket’s traffic woes.
In that poll, votes for a reformed bus network (28 per cent) were significantly more than those for the Chalong underpass (17pc), and more than 20 times those for the Bang Khu underpass (1pc). (See poll report here.)
When asked in a recent interview with The Phuket News TV about how to fix the island’s traffic problems, the late Paiboon Upatising responded humbly that a subway would be the only practical way forward, especially considering Phuket’s soaring land values.
The former Senator championed Phuket City’s existing version of public transport – the iconic pink Po Thong buses – which though undependable for most white-collar workers, are always packed with local commuters.
Perhaps in a decade, a portion of an estimated 70,000 residents who commute daily between Phuket City and surrounding locales will have the option of using the planned light-rail system… perhaps.
Meanwhile, according to projections from the Land Transport Department’s Phuket Office, a total of 8,097 new cars are expected to be registered in Phuket in 2015, in addition to 15,989 motorbikes.
That’s 24,000+ new vehicles that weren’t on our roads last year.
As for the coming decade, The Phuket News forecasts current traffic trends to persist – unless, of course priorities and policies are objectively reconsidered. We won’t be holding our breaths.