However, MRTA’s Project Development Department Director, Gardphajon Udomdhammabhakdi, who was in Phuket on on Thursday (June 20) to deliver the news, has since confirmed to The Phuket News that the 10% increase would apply only to the budget for Phase 1 of the project, which he confirmed stood at B34.8 billion.
“Actually, we don’t know how much Phase 2 will cost,” Mr Gardphajon told The Phuket News.
Previous reports by officials announced that the budget for the entire project totalled B40 billion, following a jump of B594 million announced by the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) in late November. (See story here.)
That number now appears to have been corrected, with the total cost of the project now nowhere in sight.
Phase 1 of the project covers 42 kilometres and entails installing double tracks and building 21 stations between Phuket International Airport and Chalong Circle. (See story here.)
MRTA’s Project Development Department Director, Gardphajon Udomdhammabhakdi, attended a press conference at Phuket Provincial Hall on Thursday, joined by Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana who presided over the meeting, to provide an update on the project.
Mr Gardphajon explained that the main area of construction will be along Thepkrasattri Rd (Route 402), being a very busy road that runs from the north to the south of the island. Construction plans are being adapted to have as little impact on traffic as possible, which requires further funding, according to Mr Gardphajon.
One area in particular that faces heavy traffic is around the Bang Khu underpass in Koh Kaew, which officials want to avoid adding further congestion to.
Officials expect to spend a further four to six months on planning and research before announcing the final plan and budget required.
Initially, in 2017, the Phase 1 budget was set at B24bn but was increased to B34.8bn as plans were amended.
When asked about the budget for Phase 2, which will extend 16km from the airport turnoff on Thepkrasattri Rd (intersection of Route 402 and Route 4026) to Tha Noon in Phang Nga province, Mr Gardphajon told The Phuket News, “Phase 2 plans are still with the OTP. At present, we are only addressing Phase 1.”
Mr Gardphajon said that the Ministry of Transport is not worried about the budget of the Phuket light-rail project as long as it is safe and does not interfere with traffic.
He said in the next four to six months, planning will focus on the island’s key intersections and congested roads. In places, the route will go underground, he added.
“The plans will be slightly amended and we expect to have them ready to be filed with the EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] at the beginning of 2020 for presentation to the Cabinet,” he said. “As planned, construction will start towards the end of 2020 and take three years to complete. Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2024,” Mr Gardphajon added.
Light-rail services are expected to start running in 2024, he said.