Car use in Bangkok down; fewer subway riders

Traffic was light in Bangkok yesterday, as residents avoided travelling or stayed home following the kick-off of the anti-government Bangkok Shutdown campaign, while most commuters turned to rail and other public transport.

Half the normal number of sedan car trips, normally totalling around 1.2 million runs a day, were made on city streets yesterday, said deputy National Police chief Pol Lt-General Ruengsak Jarit-ek.

A large number of commuters turned to marine transport in canals and on the Chao Phraya River.

Twenty conventional and air-conditioned city bus routes have been altered to avoid seven rally stages set up by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

More than 4,000 non-traffic and military policemen have been assigned to traffic-direction duty in addition to those on regular duties at Bangkok police stations. Police said contingency traffic plans could be adapted on an hourly basis depending on the situations, adding that the busiest of all seven protest stages was the one at the five-way Lat Phrao Intersection.

Police also advised motorists to avoid Rama VIII Bridge, which had been blocked by protesters, by using elevated roads and heading to the Pin Klao or Krung Thon bridges.

Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt, writing on his Facebook page, denied allegations he halted Bangkok-bound trains transporting anti-government supporters from the South. He said there were other means of transport for them and many trains needed to travel at slower speed over newly repaired tracks.

BTS Group Holdings, the operator of the BTS Skytrain network, said the number of passengers on Monday was lower than expected.

Anat Arbhabhirama, adviser to the board of directors, said traffic at morning rush hour was lighter, but rose at 10am-11am. Still, it was lighter than the BTS has experienced during previous mass rallies.

Ronachit Yaemsaard, deputy governor of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority, which owns the MRT network, said the number of commuters was lower than usual for a Monday morning. He said some avoided travelling into the inner city area where protesters had laid siege to several intersections.

Bangkok Metro, the MRT operator, has increased the number of security guards at stations connected to the BTS and near protest sites.