Transport chief walks back Bangkok taxi fare hike vow

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. Photo: Transportation Ministry
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. Photo: Transportation Ministry

Saksayam Chidchob has been making a lot of promises since he became the public face of  Thai transportation. But now those promises, from easing commuter pain to helping taxi drivers, are quickly fading.

A few days after announcing that Bangkok taxi fares would rise in a matter of weeks to offset the increased driver costs, Saksayam quickly abandoned the pledge, saying it hadn’t been approved by the ministry yet. 

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In a complete reversal from what he said just last week, Saksayam has since claimed he only received the proposal from taxi operators last week, saying his ministry must take a month to evaluate its merits.

Calls to the minister’s office, the ministry’s public relations department as well as the ministry spokesman’s office for an explanation were not successful. All three representatives Coconuts Bangkok spoke to by phone said they had no information about the proposal.

“It must have been decided on an executive level but the information has not been relayed to us yet,” Soranee Khaomak said.

The ministry’s retreat on the proposal came as Saksayam’s florid promises are coming in for criticism from his boss and the public.

A survey published Sunday by the National Institute of Development Administration – the credibility of which is debatable – indicated the proposed taxi fare hike was unpopular. Six in 10 of just over 1,500 people surveyed last week thought the miniscule per kilometer increase was a bad idea. That increased to four of five when it came to paying an additional baht per minute when stuck in traffic. 

Saksayam is the secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, which secured several key cabinet posts under a power-sharing agreement with the pro-establishment Palang Pracharath Party following March’s election. Bhumjaithai is a powerhouse in the rural east for its populist policies and has played kingmaker for over a decade in national politics.

The taxi fare reversal came after Prayuth slammed the brakes on Saksayam’s vow to reduce fares on the BTS Skytrain, MRT and Airport Rail Link lines to a flat rate of THB15 (US$0.50). Prayuth said it would be a burden on the state to subsidize such reductions. Most of the capital city’s commuter rail system is publicly owned but privately operated.

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“Bangkok commuters must be patient regarding this,” he told reporters. 

Meanwhile, transport officials have created an online survey in Thai for people to air their thoughts and opinions regarding its proposals and transportation in the kingdom now through Aug. 27.

Source: National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA Poll)
Source: National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA Poll)

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