Saksayam defends decision against mandatory replacement of passenger vans with micro buses
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob clarified Wednesday that he has not dropped the policy to replace the existing passenger vans with micro buses, but merely wanted the replacement to be voluntary, citing the high costs of the micro buses and the possibility of fare increases by the operators to offset their investment in the new vehicles.
The minister has come under heavy criticism for not caring about the safety of commuters over his decision to indefinitely postpone the deadline for replacement of ageing and unsafe passenger vans.
At a news conference on Wednesday morning at the Transport Ministry, Mr. Saksayam pointed out that each micro bus costs about 2.2 million baht, compared to 1.2-1.3 million baht for each passenger van, adding that most passenger van operators cannot afford the higher costs.
He said that, if the operators are forced to switch to micro buses, they would demand fare increases adding an additional burden to commuters, and the drivers would be forced to drive faster to meet their quota each day to cover their investment, which may result in reduced safety for commuters.
The transport minister explained that a support system must be put in place first. For instance, he said, there must be an organization to provide low-interest credit to finance operators’ purchases of micro buses, adding that a maintenance system must also be in place as the micro buses and their spare parts have to be imported.
Mr. Saksayam insisted that voluntary replacement of passenger vans will reduce the trade deficit as the import of about 10,000 micro buses would cost an estimated 20 billion baht in foreign exchange.
He noted that most accidents involving passenger vans were caused by the drivers themselves and only 2.9% were caused by the vehicles.
He admitted that officials had been lax in examining the condition of passenger vans, allowing unsafe vans to operate.
Regarding his decision to extend the service duration of passenger vans from 10 to 12 years, he explained that it would depend on the condition of each vehicle. Even vans which are less than ten years old and do not meet the safety standards will be banned, he said.