The news was announced at a launch event held at the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) on Tuesday (Apr 2), led by Phuket Vice Governor Thanyawat Chanpinit.
Under the PLTO project “Conserve And Develop Po Thong Bus Phuket”, the fleet of blue Po Thong buses is to be upgraded with GPS trackers.
Of note, under the project only the fleet of blue Po Thong buses is to be upgraded – not the pink Po Thong buses operated by the Phuket Provincial Adminstration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor).
“The Po Thong bus is important. They have been the heart of travel across the island for the people of Phuket since 1967 and have become of Phuket’s identity,” said PLTO Chief Banyat Kantha.
The blue buses – also usually called songtaew, with their long planks of wood as bench seats fitted in the back of converted trucks – marshall along the street in front of the new Fresh Market on Ranong Rd as their main terminal in Phuket Town.
From there the fleet serves the far reaches of the island, albeit slowly, with routes serving Tha Chatchai, Kamala, Karon-Kata Noi, Chalong and Rawai.
However, one of the key laid-back characteristics of the buses harking back to yesteryear is not knowing when the next one will pass by, despite attempts to keep to a rough timetable – such is the nature of the buses which pick up and drop off passengers from actual bus stops and from any other points along the routes as necessary.
With the GPS and mobile phone tracking app, passengers now will have a better idea of when the next bus is coming, explained PLTO Chief Mr Banyat.
“We installed GPS by Andaman Tracking company and we had the company Taxi Beam Driver develop our ‘Bus Beam’ application so passengers can check where the Po Thong buses are by using their mobile phones,”
“Now, we have had one owner of Po Thong buses, Dern-Rod Phuket Company, join the project. They have installed GPS trackers on 20 of their Po Thong buses which serve the Phuket - Tha Chatchai route,” he said.
“The first 20 Po Thong had GPS installed at cost of B100,000, with the funds provided by Patong Development Foundation under Preechawude ‘Prab’ Keesin,” he said.
“Other Po Thong operators can join later. The cost is B4,500 to install a GPS, and the price includes the B200 per month GPS service fee,” he added.
“After the first year, operators will have to pay B200 per month for the GPS service fee,” he said.
“The normal price for fitting the GPS unit is B6,500, but Andaman Tracking is giving a good discount to help support the project,” Mr Banyat said.
Of the funds provided by the Patong Development Foundation, B10,000 was allocated for public relations expenses, he added.
Mr Banyat explained that the event on Tuesday was “Phase 2” of the project, after the app was launched in December 2017 with the airport bus service being the first to join.
“We hope to have 70 Po Thong buses in total operating under this project in the future,” Mr Banyat added.
However, Mr Banyat explained that people with Android phones will have to wait as the app has been temporarily withdrawn from Google Play (click here).
“Bus Beam are currently fixing the Android version, but it will be available soon,” he said.