Bangkok bus numbers to be adjusted after stirring confusion

Bangkok bus numbers to be adjusted after stirring confusion

Transport minister still goes ahead with change

Bangkok bus numbers to be adjusted after stirring confusion
A bus serving Route 1-8, formerly known as Bus No.59, departs Victory Monument. The decision to rename the route is causing confusion among passengers. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Transport Ministry will adjust new bus route numbers following passenger complaints about the change. However, the ministry remains firm in its commitment to the project.

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit said on Friday he had ordered the Land Transport Department to modify all new route numbers by removing the dash between the zone and route numbers, aiming to alleviate confusion among travellers.

Buses serving Greater Bangkok underwent route number changes this month as part of an effort to reform the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA). For example, bus No.59 is now designated as 1-8, where the first number represents the service zone. In addition, the letter “E” is added for buses using expressways.

The change was made following a study by the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) in 2017. The economic think tank was commissioned by the department to reform the BMTA, a state enterprise under the ministry.

It adjustment has stirred confusion among passengers, many have criticised the bus agency, the department and the ministry for altering familiar route numbers.

Mr Suriya said the dash in the new numbers will be dropped, and the old bus routes would be retained in parentheses. For example, bus No.1-15 (150) which will be changed to 115 (150). He said this adjustment would make the new numbers easier to remember, although he did not specify when it would take effect.

Passengers have expressed their frustration on the BMTA Facebook page and other social media outlets, citing a lack of effective public relations campaigns to inform them of the changes. 

A Facebook user commented: “You have never told passengers about the change, leaving that burden to drivers and conductors to tell passengers.”

“You’d better dump all aging buses first instead of coming up with new numbers,” another wrote.

The department and BMTA have yet to explain how the route number change would benefit the bus agency.

The House committee on economic development has slammed the change, citing widespread confusion. The committee has demanded the department to scrap the idea. “The new bus routes have shown that those who came up with the idea have never used the bus,” Suphanat Minchaiynunt, Move Forward Party MP for Bangkok and a committee member, said on Jan 25.

Even the BMTA labour union staunchly opposed the idea and urged the transport minister and related agencies to revert to the old bus numbers. “The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority State Enterprise Workers Union has never supported the routing reform, which designates new bus numbers, including English letters, because it will make people confused,” it said in a statement issued on Jan 5, the first day that the BMTA introduced the new numbers.