Bus fare increase skids to a halt

Economy January 18, 2019 01:00

By   THE NATION

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BANGKOK commuters have won a reprieve from a planned increase in bus fares, with officials in charge of state enterprises saying that stable fuel prices mean the impact on passengers can’t be justified.



The State Enterprise Policy Commission, in putting the brakes on the increase, has let passengers off the hook only temporarily. It has asked that Ministry of Transport officials have discussions with their peers in the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) on a more appropriate time for the fare increase.

The commission acted to suspend the fair increase at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday, an anonymous source from Government House said. The fare increase had been scheduled to take effect from January 21.

“Now is not the right time to raise bus fares as oil prices are not rising,” the source said. “Just when the right time is should be considered.”

Pantip Sripimol, an adviser for state enterprise development at the State Enterprise Policy Office (Sepo), said that officials from the ministry and the BMTA will discuss a more appropriate time for the fare increase. They will also discuss the extent of any future rise in fares. The outcome of their talks will be reported to the commission’s next meeting.

 “The commission is concerned that the fare raise could affect people and thinks that the proper time for it could be in 2020,” Pantip said. “The related agencies must consider when should be the time for the rise and whether it will be one-time increase or something done gradually.”

In the meeting yesterday, the BMTA said that it had received 300 natural gas vehicle (NGV) buses on expectation to receive the remaining 189 NGV buses of an initial batch by March. It expected to receive all of the 3,000 NGV buses on order by 2022.

Away from transport, the commission said that Islamic Bank of Thailand has left the state-enterprise rehabilitation plan, thanks to its strong financial status and higher-than-expected 2018 operating profit at more than Bt500 million.

The bank aims to lend more, particularly in the five southernmost provinces, while expecting to see a clearer picture for its foreign partner to participate in joint investments.

“The commission viewed that the bank recorded profits as a result of improvements to its work system that solved its previous problems and helps enable future operational sustainability,” Pantip said.

“It thus decided to have the bank leave the group of state enterprises that participate in the rehabilitation plan to solve their problems. The Ministry of Finance has been assigned to take care of the bank as it operates its business as planned.”

In regard to other state enterprises in rehabilitation, the commission asked Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) to expedite its plan to sell retired aircraft and present more clearly how it will join forces with Thai Smile Airways Co Ltd and Nok Air Plc.

The source said that THAI may operate Thai Smile but could sell off Nok Air, which operates services in closer competition with those of Thai Smile and suffered losses. THAI holds a 21.8 per cent stake in Nok Air.

In other transport matters, the State Railway of Thailand was asked to present its plan to set up an asset management company at the commission's next meeting, along with updates on the development of new and double-track railways this year.

In telecommunications, a merger between TOT Plc and Cat Telecom Plc has been completed. But legal disputes between the companies will be considered later. All the employees of both companies will be transferred to the merged company.

The merged company, which will begin its operations by June, will have five main businesses: infrastructure, international communication network, broadband and fixed line, mobile phone and digital services.