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BRT trial gets off to rocky start

The first week of the trial run of Bangkok’s Bus Rapid Transit system has been fraught with technical woes and the buses have been blamed for worsening traffic.

Commuters step off the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) bus on Rama III Road yesterday. The BRT, which is on a trial run, got off to a poor start after many buses developed fuel problems. The service has also been blamed for causing traffic jams. RATTASEEMA PONGSEN

The yet-to-be-completed transportation control system and the lack of a maintenance centre and gas stations for BRT buses also posed severe problems for the service.

Deputy Bangkok Governor Samart Ratchapolsitte, who initiated the BRT project during the tenure of previous Bangkok governor Apirak Kosayodhin, expressed concern about the problems and gave his views yesterday on how to improve the BRT system.

Mr Samart, who has closely monitored the BRT system since it opened for its trial run on May 29, said there were problems with the frequency of BRT buses which must be increased. During the rush hours, a BRT bus must leave every five minutes.

However, it took more than 20 minutes for a BRT bus to leave Chong Nonsi station on the evening of June 2, five days after the BRT went into service on its trail run. The problem resulted in many passengers being left stranded, said the former deputy governor.

He said the problem was caused by not enough buses operating along the route during the three-month trial run.

At some points, the BRT buses must also share the road with other vehicles which slows them down.

Another problem was that construction of a BRT maintenance centre and NGV gas stations on Rama III Road has not yet been completed, forcing BRT bus drivers to fill up on gas in the Phra Pradaeng area, which is far away from the service route, Mr Samart said.

He said the agency responsible for the BRT must coordinate with the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) to readjust city bus routes nearby to prevent them competing with each other.

”Construction of the BRT system is not difficult. But the hardest and most important task is how to find incentives for people to leave their cars at home and ride the BRT. There must be clear differences between BRT buses and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) buses. If not, the BRT project will be a flop,” said Mr Samart.

Amorn Kitchawengkul, managing director of Krungthep Thanakom, the BMA’s commercial arm to manage the BRT project, said that encountering problems was normal during a trial run.

Road users still lacked understanding about the BRT system and the bus control system has not yet been completed. The BRT bus drivers were also not familiar with the bus routes.

If the problems were fixed and the entire bus system tested, the BRT would be ready to fully serve the public, he said. He said about seven months would be needed to correct the flaws. ”Now, about 14,000 people ride the BRT buses a day during the test run with the figure still below our target of 35,000 a day in the first year of service. Once the problems are out of the way, the number of passengers is expected reach the target.”

The three-month trial run of the first line of the BRT system was launched by the BMA on May 29. The bus line stretches 16km from Chong Nonsi on Rama III Road to Ratchaphruek Road.

The BRT service is free during the trial period, which lasts until Aug 31. Then they will go to 10 baht for the entire route.

From Jan 2 next year onwards, fares will be 12-20 baht depending on the distance just like BMA-run air-conditioned buses.

Krungthep Thanakom has hired Bangkok Mass Transit System Co (BTSC) to supply and operate 25 BRT buses.

Five more buses will be supplied to the system after it has been in service for three years.

  • Published in Bangkok Post: 5/06/2010 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: News

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