Saturday, November 5, 2011

Froc abandons Rama II Road

Bangkok Post

No barriers to be built on main south link

Rama II Road has been left defenceless against approaching floodwater after a decision that could cut road links between Bangkok and the South.
With some sections of Phetkasem and Boromratchonnanee roads impassable due to high water levels, Rama II is the only lifeline available for motorists wanting to travel to the South or resort areas in the lower central provinces.

A source at the Flood Relief Operations Command said officials had decided not to build barriers to stop water moving towards the road and will let it flow over it and continue to the Gulf of Thailand.

"It is useless to block the water moving out to the sea. If we do that, more people will be affected," the source said.

Water is threatening Bang Bon district and Rama II to the South looks set to be affected if Bang Bon is under water.

An official at the Drainage and Sewerage Department in charge of Thon Buri said Rama II could not survive the flooding given the large volume of water in Thon Buri.

"We did not expect Phetkasem and Boromratchonnanee to be flooded and they were. The future of Rama II is the same," said the official, who requested anonymity. The question is how deep the water level on the road will be, he added.

Transport Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said the ministry was prepared for the worst-case scenario on Rama II by trying to dry a 12-kilometre section of Road 340 in Bang Yai and Bang Bua Thong districts in Nonthaburi so that road users could make a detour to the South via Nakhon Pathom and Ratchaburi. The water level in the section is 80 centimetres to 1.2 metres high.

Supote Sublom, permanent secretary for transport, said the ministry was building sandbag walls on both sides of the road and would drain all the water out of it by Monday.

"I am confident that we will get Road 340 back to normal to be an alternative route to the South. We are deploying all engineers and staff from several highway provincial offices to do that," said Mr Supote.

Rama II runs through Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram provinces and meets Phetkasem Road in Ratchaburi's Pak Tho district.

Chula Sukmanop, an inspector-general at the ministry, said an impassable Rama II would affect the trade, tourism and industry sectors because it was the only road to southern provinces unaffected by the flood disaster.

"I don't think that flooding on Rama II will be so serious that all cars cannot use it," said Mr Chula.

But opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, as well as business operators, residents and officials in Samut Sakhon expressed concern about possible severe flooding on Rama II.
Mr Abhisit urged the government to prepare a plan on goods distribution and public transport if the road cannot be used.

Wicharn Sirichai-ekawat, the senator representing Samut Sakhon, said the closure of Rama II could affect operations of more than 5,000 factories in the province. He feared that water flooding the road could spill over to Samut Sakhon.

Logistics service operators said the shortage of consumer goods in Greater Bangkok would probably worsen if Rama II flooded. They said the escalating floods have threatened to isolate Bangkok after main roads heading to the North and Northeast were paralysed.

"Rama II is currently the main route for moving goods to and from the South as well as the western region, while Bang Na-Trat [Road] mainly services shipments to the eastern parts," said Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries and head of its Logistics Industry Club.

"Since rail routes in several southern provinces such as Surat Thani and Chumphon have been shut down because of floods, southbound shipments will be hard hit if transport on the main Rama II Road is disrupted."

Mr Tanit, who is also chairman of integrated logistics provider V-Serve Group, said the shortage of necessities such as bottled water in Bangkok was mainly caused by logistics disruptions, although supplies are adequate.

Suwit Ratanachinda, president of the Thai Logistics Services Provider Federation, said if the water was not so high, trucks would be able to use Rama II.

"If Rama II is flooded, I am afraid that Bangkok will be isolated," said Mr Suwit, who is also president of the Thai International Freight Forwarders Association. "Shipments of seafood, for example, which mainly come from the South to serve Bangkok and other parts of the country, will be affected."
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