Being one of Thailand’s flagship transport infrastructure development projects, Kathu – Patong Expressway Project, Phuket Province, has been initiated out of the plan to encourage Phuket Province development, under the Smart City concept. The Project will not only promote tourism in the province but also minimize road accidents as well as increase additional evacuation route locally. Besides, to alleviate traffic congestion in the province, Expressway Authority of Thailand (EXAT) is currently conducting an alignment study for the extension of the Project, Phuket Airport – Kho Kaew – Kathu Section.
The Cabinet, via the resolution passed on 18 January, 2022, has given an approval for the EXAT to implement the Project through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Net Cost scheme, whereby the public sector is to take care of land acquisition while the private sector is being responsible for the detailed design and construction (including supervision fee), operation and maintenance (O&M) as well as all toll collection services. Based on BTO (Build-Transfer-Operate) model, the private party shall transfer ownerships of all the assets invested to the public sector prior to service commencement. The PPP period covers 35 years in total, starting from the date the Notice to Proceed (NTP) has been issued by EXAT.
To speed up, EXAT has then pushed forward an implementation of the Kathu – Pa Tong Expressway Project, Phuket Province, which is now in the stage of selecting the private partner and preparing for outlines of the draft Invitation to Tender, Request for Proposal and PPP Contract, for Market Sounding exercise, according to the Public-Private Partnership Act, B.E. 2562 (2019).
Project Route Alignment
Covering a total of 3.98 km., most of the Project alignments are elevated, with tunnels in the middle. The alignment starts where it connects with Phra Metta Road in Pa tong Subdistrict, Kathu District. Heading eastward, the alignment is elevated, crossing over Pisit Koranee Road for 0.9 km. before it reaches Nak Kerd Hill. From this point, the alignment turns into a tunnel of 1.85-km. distance, passing under the same Hill, and switches back to elevated form for another 1.23 km. until the end of the Project, where it intersects with Highway 4029 (Phra Baramee Road) in Kathu Subdistrict. The entire elevated sections are 4 lanes per direction (2 for cars and the others for motorcycles), with the Project starting and ending points being interchanges. A toll plaza is also provided on Kathu side for toll collection services on both traffic directions.
The Project Distinguishing Characteristics – This Project is not only the first tunnel expressway in Thailand but also the first expressway that offers services to motorcycles. Functioning as an evacuation route in disaster situations also makes it remarkable.
Kathu – Pa Tong Expressway Project, Phuket Province, once successfully implemented, will generate economic benefits, both directly and indirectly, in the following manners:
Highway 4029 is, for the time being, the only route available for travelling from Phuket city, where economic, commercial and tourism zones are located, to Pa Tong Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the world, despite the fact that it’s filled with steep slopes, being twisty and needs to accommodate large amount of vehicles, which result in traffic congestion and regular road accidents. Taking all these into account, an implementation of the expressway project seems to be a resolution to these problems, serving as an alternative route between the east of Phuket city and Pa Tong Beach, allowing both local and visiting trip makers to travel on a straight road, via a tunnel that is cut through the mountain. This will not only improve the transportation capacities between these two locations and of the local road network, where the traffic volume is increasing; but also reduce road accidents caused by its steep-slope and twisty conditions, cut the cost incurred from using private cars and reduce travel time. In addition, an expressway can also help uplift the road alignment standard, ensuring its users will be provided with convenience and rapidity.
An implementation of the Kathu – Pa Tong Expressway Project, Phuket Province, is considered one of the measures to promote tourism in Phuket Province. As the number of tourists arriving in Phuket is over 13.3 million per year and is rising continually while the major mode of travel in the province is private car, an initiation of the Project will benefit travelers in terms of convenience and rapidity, making it likely to encourage more travel demands. With such growing number of tourists, Phuket’s economic well-being can be improved while an attempt to fulfill tourists’ demands can induce a development in the areas. With all combined, Phuket’s Gross Provincial Product (GPP) will be higher, enabling the province to welcome more tourists, which is in compliance with The Tourism Industry Strategies for Community Economy Development in the Andaman Triangle (Phuket – Phangnga – Krabi). This will make a positive impact on the development of Thailand’s southern region in the time to come.