Pattaya Daily News

20 March 2013 :: 13:03:47 pm 73054

Taxi drivers ‘guarantee’ protest if new Phuket bus service begins

Taxi drivers in Karon have said they “will not allow” the planned new airport bus service to take their jobs, saying they “guarantee” protests if the buses start running.
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PHUKET – March 19,2013; The new bus service, that will run between the airport and Kata, was initially planned to start in March, but now a public meeting to include locals and taxi drivers has been planned for no later than May 15.

Vice-Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada, chairing a conference today (March 19) at the Provincial Transport Department to discuss the new bus service, said it was a useful and needed service for the public.

But he admitted he was worried about the reaction of taxi or tuk-tuk drivers in Kata-Karon and in Patong – through which the service will run, and which are home to some of the most fiercely territorial drivers.

But taxi drivers spoken to by The Phuket News this afternoon were against the service.

One driver was blunt. “A lot of local people here are taxi drivers, and we will not allow the bus service to take our jobs.

“They tried to do this kind of bus service around Phuket many years ago. In the end, the bus was damaged and the bus driver was hurt. The bus service has been stopped since then,” he said.

Another said, “There will be protests if the buses start running – we can guarantee that. You can also ask any other taxi driver in other areas, they will say the same.”

For people who wanted to use public transportation, he said, there are already the pink po-tong buses run by the OrBorJor from Phuket Town to Kata and Patong.

Another taxi driver admitted that there had been tourist complaints about the prices of taxis, but he said the price had been approved by the provincial authorities, and in any case could always be negotiated.

“We set the fare based on the distance. If a passenger wants to go somewhere far away, we also have to drive back a long distance after we drop them off. We have to charge more than for places that are nearby.”

Because of the territorial nature of the taxi business in Phuket, drivers may take passengers to another group’s territory, but may not pick passengers up there, with the result that they have to drive back empty to their home territory.

During today’s meeting, Teerayut Prasertpon, Director of Transport, pointed out that a company is ready to run the service and has procured vehicles, and fares have already been agreed. All that is required is the issue of the operation permit.

V/G Chamroen said worriedly, “I am afraid that local people may not accept this idea about the bus service. I want the Transportation Department to convene a meeting to include taxi organisations and local people to get their opinions.”

He also ordered Mr Teerayut “to find out and make sure about the bus stops in the Patong and Kata area.” So far, specific spaces for the buses to pull into the side of the road have been reserved only on the way to Patong, but not in the most contentious areas.

V/G Chamroen insisted that he did not want to rush into giving the go-ahead for the bus service. “I do not want us to provoke a mob over this.”

Mr Teerayut accepted the Vice-Governor’s demand for a public meeting to raise awareness. He said he would organise this no later than May 15.

He told The Phuket News after the meeting, “The bus service is for Phuket people and offers them more choice.”

He added, “This new service will be approved for sure. If I am afraid of problems and if we do nothing [because we are afraid], then the service will be postponed again and the people of Phuket will never have the benefit of it.”

View the original story on The Phuket News here.

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