Plans underway for mass transit and Phuket-Surat Thani rail link to connect Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea

PHUKET: Plans for a new mass transit system connecting Phuket to Surat Thani have been announced, with a study now underway to determine the best way to do it.

By Naraporn Tuarob

Monday 21 October 2013, 01:51PM

Phuket Governor Maitree Intusut at the transport meeting.

Phuket Governor Maitree Intusut at the transport meeting.

The plan is for some sort of transit system, which has yet to be decided, to connect Don Sak in Surat Thani, to Tha-Noon, in Phang Nga just over Sarasin Bridge. This will be some type of “heavy rail” system.

The second part of the plan will connect Tha-Noon to Phuket International Airport, and will then go to Chalong Circle.

Egis Rail, a Singapore-based company, won the bid to complete the two feasibility studies for the project. The study began in September this year and will continue for another 14 months.

In March 2012, the government allocated B118 million for the two feasibility studies.

Thailand’s train network currently runs from Bangkok to Surat Thani, and then down to Yala and carries on via Malayan Railways to Penang in Malaysia. There has never been a Phuket rail link.

At the moment there is no exact route or system confirmed for the new project because there are many factors to consider, including geography, environmental, cost, and the most appropriate type of design, the meeting was told.

Egis Rail Director Bruno Vantu told The Phuket News that there were pros and cons to the different options.

"Phuket is not a capital city, it is a smaller, second-tier type of city, so a metro type of transport system is likely to be not appropriate.

“A BRT (bus transit system) only is quite destructive, and better for the outskirts of the city. The monorail is elevated, and doesn’t solve the problem of the traffic. The LTR (light rail) is the better possibility to solve the traffic issue.”

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When asked about the cost of the project, Mr Vantu said it could cost “hundreds of millions of Euros”.

“This is a big project, and that’s why financing is important. The BRT is cheaper but it doesn’t last long. You must look at the project over a 20-30 year span, and look at the investment costs plus the operation costs. Over 30 years, the LTR type of system can be competitive.”

Phuket Governor Maitree Intusut told The Phuket News after the meeting that the main goal of the project was to transport tourists from the Gulf of Thailand (Surat Thani) to the Andaman side (Phuket).

“We haven’t conducted any public hearings yet. The link from Tha-Noon to Chalong Circle will have multiple options – it could be a mix between heavy rail and monorail.

“The main route will be from the airport to Chalong Circle. It might be possible for other routes, like connecting to Patong, but we will have to consider the cost of investment.”

It is not the first time a large Phuket transport project has been mooted. In May 2012 the idea for a light rail project on the island was first announced, under then-Governor Tri Augkaradacha.

At the time, nine companies; five from China, three from South Korea, and one from Germany; showed interest in what would have been Phuket’s most comprehensive public transportation system.

A project study was due to take place but it is not known if this happened.



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