A group of NLA members led by Adm Choomnoom Ardwong came to Phuket this morning (Feb 3) to have a series of meetings with local officials and get an update on how Phuket's most crucial problems are being solved. The first meeting was held at 10am at the Phuket City Municipality that that was exactly where and when the Patong Tunnel project added to the agenda by Rear Adm Amornchot Sujirat, an ex-deputy of the Army's Internal Security Operations Command.
“I really have some information to present to NLA. It has to do with Highway 4029, which links Kathu to Patong and where road accidents happen on a regular basis. Lot of vehicles use this road every day, and I don't know who had come up with the Patong Tunnel idea. Let’s forget about idea,” Adm Amornchot said before giving his reasons against the project and suggesting an alternative plan.
“The excavation will cost around B6 billion. This project will never pass. The return on investment is not worth it, it will take over 100 years for the project to pay for itself. No one is interested in this project,” Adm Amornchot said.
“But there is another option, which is a link from Patong to Khlong Katha Dam in Chalong. The two locations are only 3 km away from each other and separated by a forest area. The extra benefit of this option is the possibility of connecting it to the projected light rail. All we need is an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study. If the project passes EIA, the problem will be solved. I hope this plan will be considered,” he concluded.
Visiting NLA members thanked Adm Amornchot for his suggestion and promised that the idea will be considered. None of those present at the meeting mentioned that the Patong Tunnel project was specifically mentioned among Phuket's top ones by Thailand’s Transport Minister Lt Gen Arkhom Termpittayapaisit when he visited Phuket last year (read here).
Other topics presented to NLA members included town planning issues in Phuket; transportation problems, the Phuket Smart City project; and Phuket flooding problems. Drawbacks were found in every of the aforementioned fields.
1. Town Planning in Phuket must be upgraded in line with the Smart City philosophy. Land encroachment and Phuket'l hilly landscape were specifically mentioned among local bottlenecks.
2. Phuket road infrastructure is not developed enough to cope with the number of vehicles which leads to traffic jams. Water transport is yet to become an efficient service, while the Yacht Control Centre at Chalong Pier is not developed enough to show good performance. The floating pier in Patong is unsafe and not able to serve the demand from the tourist, while Phuket International Airport is unable to accommodate the current high volume of passenger.
3. The Phuket Smart City project is not moving forward fast enough. The current problem is lack of budget with some B1.05 bn needed.
4. Some areas of Phuket, including Phuket Town, Rassada, Chalong and Patong are prone to floodings, which affect local economy and lives of local people. The flooding have also negative effects on transportation.
NLA members will continue their meeting with Phuket people tomorrow (Feb 4) before returning to Bangkok with all the information gathered.