Plans are afoot to ban affluent people and tourists from taking advantage of free journeys on city bus routes, Transport Minister Chadchart Suttipunt has announced.
The minister on Tuesday said he was exploring the feasibility of issuing bar-coded ID cards to low-income commuters to allow them free use of Bangkok Mass Transit Authority buses as part of the government’s travel concession scheme.
Passengers would be able to qualify for the cards based on their monthly tap water and electricity payments, he said, while the number of free rides on offer would be capped each month.
Mr Chadchart was speaking after the cabinet approved a six month extension for the government scheme that offers free travel on city buses and third-class trains, to help offset the rising cost of living. The extension will run from Oct 1 to March 31 next year and cost the state more than two billion baht.
Under the scheme, free bus travel is provided by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, with 800 ordinary buses per day on 73 routes in the capital city and nearby provinces.
Some third-class carriages on interprovincial trains are also designated for free travel.
But Mr Chadchart said he is trying to find a way to close the loophole in the current scheme, which allows middle-income and wealthy commuters, and foreign tourists to take advantage of free journeys.
He wants to put an end the free bus fleet and instead install a barcode reader on all city buses, including private coaches, using a portion of the budget allocated for the scheme.
“We still have six more months to find a way to limit free bus rides only for low-income earners,” he said.
Mr Chadchart made no mention of plans to end universal free train rides.