Army speeds up NGV bus plan

After a decade-long wait, the first batch of buses could hit city streets later this year.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) resolved on July 29 to have the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) acquire some of the 3,183 natural gas-fuelled (NGV) buses proposed for purchase before the end of the year.

It has to forward details of how many buses will be bought and their prices, permanent secretary for transport Soithip Traisuth said yesterday.

“I agree with the NCPO's decision to speed up the purchase because the project has been much delayed,” she said.

The BMTA discussed the plan with the military recently and was told to make sure all the buses are ready for service by next year, said BMTA director Naret Bunpiam.

The city is planning to introduce the buses on new routes. The NCPO also wants commuters to travel on more comfortable, safer buses, not the current ones with old engines.

“If we want to acquire all the buses in 2015, we must call bids and sign a contract this year,” Mr Naret said.

The city bus project was first announced eight years ago, but progress has been slow.

The BMTA has prepared the terms of reference for the purchase, but the civic group “Network of Buses for the People” says the plans lack transparency.

The group, which also called on the NCPO to review the project, cited concerns raised by the National Anti-Corruption Commission over the cost.

The NACC wants to know exactly how median bus prices were set.

The BMTA estimates the purchase budget will be 13.1 billion baht for 1,524 air-conditioned and 1,659 non-air conditioned buses.

The civic group disagrees with BMTA plans to only make air-conditioned buses with low floors to allow easier access by the elderly, pregnant women and children. The group wants easy access on non air-conditioned buses also.

Meanwhile, BMTA labour union chairman Wiraphong Wongwaen has expressed concern about the quality of the buses after learning that they may be imported from China.

However, the union supports the BMTA stepping up its purchase plan. Mr Wiraphong expects 1,000 buses to be launched in the first batch.

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