Activists slam Bangkok bus plan

Rights activists are protesting against the the Bangkok Mass Rapid Transit Authority's (BMTA) 13.1-billion-baht bus procurement project, saying the purchase is unfair for disabled passengers.

About 200 protesters representing a group calling itself the Alliance of Networks for Universal Public Bus Services yesterday rallied against the sixth draft of the terms of reference (ToR) for the procurement of 3,183 natural gas-fuelled buses.

The protesters, made up mostly of disabled and elderly people, marched to the Transport Ministry and the BMTA where they laid wreaths in a symbolic gesture to voice their opposition to the plan.

The group said the sixth and latest version of the ToR for bus procurement was against the initial principle of making the new buses accessible to all groups of passengers.

The protesters said this version of the ToR was altered to require only non-air-conditioned buses, which would be among the 3,183 new buses, to be equipped with a wheelchair lifting system instead of a ramp system.

According to the protesters, the wheelchair-lifting system is not suitable for Bangkok’s traffic and would only lead to problems when used in the capital.

The protesters said they had submitted a letter opposing the plan when the first draft of the ToR was written, but the Transport Ministry and the BMTA stood firm on the wheelchair-lift option.

The protesters accused the ministry and the BMTA of refusing to list different options and only pushing their own option in the ToR, which they said might give certain bidders an advantage over other contenders.

A probe by a National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) panel into the bus procurement plan found it lacked transparency. It had sent the BMTA a letter opposing the sixth draft of the ToR, the protesters said.

The NACC’s panel also called on the BMTA to stick to the principle that all passengers should have access to equal convenience when travelling on BMTA buses, the protesters said.

At the BMTA’s headquarters, the protesters burned paper bus models to show their opposition to the purchase plan.

Nares Boonpiam, acting director of the BMTA who served as chairman of the committee which drafted the bus procurement’s ToR, said the committee discussed the sixth version of the draft ToR last week.

The draft would be considered as final and could be announced today if the committee decided there was no need for further changes, he said.

The BMTA would then start selling bidding documents to potential bidders, Mr Nares said.

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