Is this the end for Bangkok’s infamous No.8 bus?


Fast and furious: Passengers alighting a No.8 bus in Bangkok, which is known for overtaking tuk-tuks, cars and motorbikes. — AFP

A “PINK Devil” roars down Bangkok’s busy streets, furiously overtaking tuk-tuks, cars and motorbikes, narrowly avoiding a collision as it slows to allow passengers to scramble on before veering back into the capital’s hectic traffic. Welcome aboard the No.8 bus.

Infamous in the Thai capital, the No.8 route has spawned parody songs, viral TikToks, horrified YouTube videos and even a feature-length Fast & Furious-style film. Now the old-fashioned diesel buses are being phased out and replaced with cleaner electric models.

But the hair-raising antics of the “Pink Devils”, as Thais call them, mask the tough conditions for overworked drivers incentivised to complete their routes as fast as possible.

“It is a competition,” said driver Aphisak Sodmui, who has helmed his “hot” bus – as the non-airconditioned open-windowed models are known – for the past decade.

Some 60 such buses ply the 30km route, charging passengers 10 baht (RM1.25) going north-south that carries 700,000 people a day.

A succession of high-profile No.8 deaths in recent years have raised calls for reform. New firms are overhauling the system, pledging improved service with electric vehicles.And it does not look like the No.8 will shake its reputation so easily – one of the newly inaugurated buses has already crashed, though no one was injured.

The problem, according to Thai transport expert Sumet Ongkittikul, lies with the private firms that lease the route concession from the central Bangkok Mass Transit Authority.

As drivers are given a share of the ticket sales for each trip, on top of their salaries, “it logical that each driver tries to rush to get as many passengers as possible”, he said.

Driver Aphisak supplements his daily wage of between 150 and 200 baht (RM18.50 and RM24.50) with 10% of the daily ticket sales.

“We have to complete the route at least four times a day for us to have enough money to live,” he said.

Passenger Sai Pin, 47, said she had seen a change since the transition to the new buses with a slightly higher fare of 15 baht (RM1.85).

“With the old buses, you might encounter lots of fast driving. The new buses have definitely improved on that,” she said. — AFP

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