Last Monday night (July 10) a tour bus crash killed a 10-year-old boy and his father, both Chinese tourists on holiday in Phuket.
That accident came less than two weeks after another runaway tour bus killed a 40-year-old woman who happened to be riding a motorbike on the street where all drivers of out-of-control “brake failure” buses aim to come to a rest, instead of slamming into a concrete wall beside the entrance to the street.
Together, the two accidents left nearly 50 people, mostly tourists, injured.
During an “emergency meeting” held this week to address the issue, Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong ordered Phuket Provincial Chief Administrative Officer (Palad) Thawornwat Kongkaew to form and head a committee assigned to tackle the problem.
Gov Norraphat also vowed to press for the Patong Tunnel project to finally be pushed ahead, which – if ever completed – would remove the need for heavy vehicles to have to descend the steep hill into Patong.
Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup called for the government to re-engineer the deadly road down the steep hill descending into the key resort town in the hopes of preventing further tour bus accidents claiming the lives of tourists and local residents. This is the fastest option among those available, Ms Chalermluck stressed.
Meanwhile, the recently arrived Patong Police Chief Col Tassanai Orarigadech called for harsher penalties for bus operators using ill-maintained vehicles on the road, and Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) Chief Banyat Kantha suggested focusing on driver training.
To all this, The Phuket News asks readers the simple question, “What should Phuket do about the deadly Patong Hill road?”
Responses available are:
1. Re-engineer the road to reduce the gradient. The Patong Mayor is right, it is the fastest option.
2. Driver education is key, as well as strict penalties for reckless drivers. If we don’t change drivers’ behaviour, we won’t change anything that will fix the problem.
3. Target bus operators with harsh penalties. If bad driving costs them, they will change drivers’ attitudes themselves and will take care of the vehicles.
4. Simply ban all the big buses from Patong Hill. Tourists can be transported by minibuses.
5. Do all of the above. The problem needs a mutli-pronged approach to be effective and to avoid any “weak link” from becoming the scapegoat for policy failure.
6. Do nothing. The government has already done enough. The rest is for everyone else to learn.
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