Chadchart prepares for Songkran traffic

The Transport Ministry predicts more than four million people will head out to the provinces from Bangkok during the Songkran festival this year as it makes preparations for the exodus.

Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said state agencies would try to mitigate transport problems during the four-day Songkran long weekend, which starts on April 12. The aim is to provide optimum travel convenience to motorists while reducing road accidents.

He said authorities must ensure there are enough taxis to serve people going to and from airports or bus terminals during the festive period. The Mor Chit bus terminal and Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports are usually packed with Songkran travellers.

Mr Chadchart said he is keen that double-decker buses are run safely, following a fatal accident in Tak early last week. Twenty-nine passengers were killed when a double-decker bus careered off a hillside road. The bus driver said the brakes failed, heightening concerns the vehicles might be unstable when negotiating sharp curves or bends.

The Land Transport Department (LTD) is looking to impose strict controls on about 6,500 double-decker buses using the roads nationwide. The buses are used on both scheduled and non-scheduled services.

Mr Chadchart said the LTD might have to issue a requirement for buses with a height exceeding two metres to install additional safety features. He did not elaborate. The typical height of a double-decker buses is 4.3 metres.

The caretaker minister noted most accidents during the Songkran festival occur on small feeder roads. Main roads are usually congested, particularly at the start and the end of the festival. Smaller roads in the villages are accident-prone as traffic is lighter and people driver faster, he said. Mr Chadchart added drivers of public transport vehicles must also be subject to alcohol checks.

Transport permanent secretary Somchai Siriwattanachok said the ministry estimates about 4.1 million people will travel from Bangkok to the provinces during the Songkran festival with buses expected to remain the favourite mode of transport, followed by trains and planes. Earlier, the Expressway Authority of Thailand announced there will be no toll charged on the Bang Na-Chon Buri section of the expressway during the Songkran holiday.

The toll exemption is set to go into effect immediately after midnight on April 10 and it will end at midnight on April 16. The exemption applies to the elevated expressway to the south of Suvarnabhumi airport linking the Bang Na-Chon Buri section. It also applies to the link between the Bang Phli-Suksawat section and the Bang Na-Chon Buri section.

Expressway authority director Aiyanut Tinaphai has said the toll exemption is intended to ease the traffic flow for people heading out of Bangkok for the traditional Thai New Year holiday.

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