Saturday, 16 August 2008
from MCOT, Malaysia 1 August 2008 A new Thai government-sponsored package containing six measures designed to assist the low-income public, including both free bus and train fares for six months, was launched on Friday. Acting State Railway of Thailand (SRT) governor Thawil Samnakhon said on Modernine TV Friday morning that he expected the free rides which are now being offered on third-class and non-air-conditioned trains would increase the daily passenger volume between 15-20 per cent as compared to previous ridership. Assessment of traffic routes which are most heavily used by travelers will be conducted so that the SRT could increase its services to cope with passenger demand, he said. The SRT is expected to lose about Bt250 million in revenue, Mr. Thawil said, but the government will help pay for the losses. Meanwhile, Pinet Puapattanakul, director of the state-run Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), said his agency had already prepared 800 buses for to serve the increased volume of Bangkok passengers. Mr. Pinet said bus services would remain unchanged although the bus agency does not collect fees. Service assessment will be made this week which could be used for improving bus services in future. All six measures are being implemented from Friday, except for the reduction of excise tax on fuel which began July 25. The measures are aimed at boosting the Thai economy, which has become sluggish due to soaring oil prices, and also to assist the poor and low income wage-earners. The measures concerned are cuts in excise taxes on fuel, postponing an increase in prices for liquefied petroleum gas used by private householders and the free use of tap water by households using less than 50 cubic metres per month. The government will absorb the cost. The other measures are the free use of electricity of less than 80 units per month by households, with the government shouldering the expense, while for households using less than 150 units per month the government can pay half the bill, free travel on 800 ordinary buses operated by BMTA on 73 routes within Bangkok and its outlying areas, and free travel on third class railway carriages. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has said the measures will cost the government about Bt46 billion (US$1.4 billion).