Friday ‘D Day’ for new Phuket bus service

Posted on July 16, 2013

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The new and much-debated bus service from Phuket International Airport to Patong will launch on Friday (July 19) at 9am, with some lingering doubt as to whether there will be a negative reaction from some of Patong’s highly territorial tuk-tuk and taxi drivers.

The new and much-debated bus service from Phuket International Airport to Patong will launch on Friday (July 19) at 9am, with some lingering doubt as to whether there will be a negative reaction from some of Patong’s highly territorial tuk-tuk and taxi drivers. -

The service was originally announced by government officials as starting on July 1, but the bus company said that it needed another month for marketing. A compromise between the two dates was agreed: July 19.

On March 25, Patong Mayor Pian Keesin put his official seal of approval on the service, saying “It is right that people should have a choice,” and agreeing to speak with the main Patong tuk-tuk club, the Phuket Taxi Federation (PTF), whose chairman is his own son, Phrap Keesin.

Today a representative of the PTF, Anun Pleumjit, told The Phuket News, “I think this [bus service] is a good idea. It signifies that Phuket is moving forward to another level.

“It’s a national policy that we understand … Phuket is an international destination, therefore we need to embrace the idea and provide the choice for tourists and customers.

“In Bangkok, there are many choices of transport for tourists to choose from. Nobody wants to take an expensive form of transport every time. Also, we understand that the target group of the Airport Bus is different [from the tuk-tuks’ main customer base] so it won’t take much [custom from us].

“There will be [a choice of] good services for tourists and other customers. We have to focus on the public interest, not self-interest.”

There have been suggestions from local press that some of Patong’s tuk-tuk drivers may not agree with him at all; the PTF represents only tuk-tuk drivers from Phuket, not those from other provinces.

Asked about this Mr Anun said, “In Patong there are lots of taxi and tuk-tuk groups. Most of us know each other and I have talked with my fellows [in the other groups] and they all agree with the idea.

“There will be some groups who are not local people, who might disagree, but they will not do anything [against the bus service] because the majority of the groups won’t join them in any action.”

Friday will be the acid test.

The hope is that if all goes smoothly – and transport groups in Patong are satisfied that their interests are not being badly damaged by the bus service – that satisfaction will be communicated to the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers of Karon and Kata.

Those two towns were originally planned for inclusion in the bus service but the drivers in both have stated in no uncertain terms that they absolutely will not tolerate the buses coming into their territory.

Unlike Patong, where Mayor Pian has the political and social clout effectively to order change, neither Kata nor Karon has a figure of similar stature, so pushing the bus service through to those two towns may be a drawn-out process, with no guarantees of success.

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Posted in: Phuket