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New Year's Exodus

Bus, train stations jammed as holidaymakers head upcountry

Traffic comes to a virtual halt on Mitrapab Road in Nakhon Ratchasima yesterday.

Traffic comes to a virtual halt on Mitrapab Road in Nakhon Ratchasima yesterday.

Passengers estimated at 300,000; 33 killed on first day of 'danger period'

Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to key bus terminals and train stations in Bangkok yesterday to get a ride back to their home provinces for the New Year celebrations.

Traffic around the terminals, such as the Morchit Terminal II, came to a virtual standstill last night, and congestion was already reported on several key roads to other parts of the country.

Millions of Bangkok residents hail from other provinces. During long holidays such as the New Year, many of them visit their hometowns. On top of this, huge numbers of Bangkokians head to other provinces to enjoy the holiday out of town.

Additional train services

Deputy Transport Minister Prasert Chantararuangthong said 24 more train trips were added to the schedule yesterday to facilitate the extra passengers. The number of carriages per train had also been increased to accommodate the demand, he said.

"Each train will get two more carriages to make sure passengers won't be stranded," he said. He believed some 100,000 passengers left the capital by train yesterday.

Transport Co Ltd, which provides bus services, believed the number of passengers would reach 200,000 yesterday.

The bus-service provider vowed to ensure there were enough seats for all.

Prasert encouraged passengers who are overcharged for bus tickets to call hotline numbers 1584 and 1490 round the clock.

"Selling an overpriced bus ticket is punishable by a fine of up toBt10,000," he said.

With the huge demand for road travel, traffic jams hit several parts of the country yesterday. Tailback along the main road through Nakhon Sawan, the gateway to the North, for example, measured nearly 10 kilometres. Traffic jams hit the province starting at noon.

Officials also prevented trucks from entering the heart of Nakhon Sawan in the hope of easing the traffic woes.

Nakhon Ratchasima, the gateway to the Northeast, also saw heavy traffic. The traffic was paralysed at various portions of the Mitrapab Road.

Accidents

Meanwhile, the Road Safety Directing Centre reported that road accidents on the first of the seven dangerous days of the New Year celebrations claimed 33 lives and injured 322 people.

The seven-day period started on Thursday.

The centre said that as many as 314 accidents took place on Thursday, causing 33 deaths and injuring 322 people.

Although road casualties were down compared with the same period a year earlier, the losses were still huge, the centre said.

Drunkenness emerged as the leading cause of the accidents. Speeding came second. Failure to wear a crash helmet was blamed for 18.59 per cent of the injuries and deaths.

Relevant organisations are now vigorously promoting the "Towards the New Year with Safety" campaign.

According to the Road Safety Directing Centre, officials manned checkpoints along roads across the country to promote safe driving. In a matter of just one day, 21,533 motorists were arrested for not having a driver's licence and 20,169 for not wearing a crash helmet.

Chiang Mai has seen the highest number of road accidents so far. As many as 20 accidents took place, causing four deaths and injuring 17 victims.

Only 11 of the 77 provinces were accident-free on Thursday. They were Kamphaeng Phet, Chachoengsao, Chumphon, Trat, Nakhon Nayok, Yasothon, Si Sa Ket, Satun, Samut Prakan, Saraburi and Nong Khai.




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