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Bangkok’s snarled traffic gets Prime Minister attention

The prime minister, who admitted that he had not taken a skytrain ride in almost 10 years, mingled with the train passengers

Olivier Languepin

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha went on a tour of Bangkok city today to observe first-hand the capital’s traffic problems and progress in the upgrading of transport networks designed to alleviate the gridlock.

General Prayut’s first stop on the trip was the police traffic control centre on Vibhavadi Rangsit road before proceeding to the BTS skytrain station at the national sports stadium where he took a train to Bang Wa station. The prime minister, who admitted that he had not taken a skytrain ride in almost 10 years, mingled with the train passengers and took selfies with many of them.

Kasikorn Research Center, a Thai bank affiliated research firm, estimates that the country loses 11 billion baht ($317 million) a year, or 60 million baht a day, due to lost opportunities of people stuck in Bangkok’s traffic jams.

But this in nos the first Thailand’s traffic authorities are trying to get serious about tackling the chronic congestion in Bangkok.

In October 2016 the ruling junta issued on order to solve the traffic problems on the capital’s 21 main roads — in just one month, followed by very little consequences. A slew of measures had been slowly enforced, such as reducing the size of traffic islands to widen roads and removing illegally parked cars.

Meanwhile, very little progress have been made to offer public transportation alternatives to Bangkok’s motorists. Vietnam war era red buses are still standing still in the heat and open rife pollution for hours in Bangkok notorious traffic jam because they do not have designated priority lines like in other Asian capitals.

The more people turn away from the public bus, the more cars on the streets, thus increasing traffic congestion, polluting the environment, collectively worsening the city’s mobility.

Results expected within three months

During his visit, General Prayut said that from now on, all police stations in Bangkok would have to follow instructions from the traffic-control centre, in a move to ease traffic problems in the city as a whole, according to a report by The Nation.

The PM said this effort to ease traffic congestion should yield a positive result within three months and has threatened to take disciplinary action against any police station found to have been negligent.

But according to Nikkei Asian Review the growing number of new cars and trucks in urban centers is likely to worsen commerce-stifling traffic jams in major cities such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila — adding urgency to much needed transport infrastructure upgrades throughout much of the region.

Car ownership estimates suggest that there is ample room for continued car sales growth in Southeast Asia over the coming years, based on economics factors like higher incomes and the expanding middle class in rising economies.

Bangkok and Jakarta ranked the second and third worst congested cities in the world in 2016, according to navigation equipment manufacturer TomTom, in a survey of 390 cities in 48 countries.

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