A “Pink Satan” roars down Bangkok’s busy streets, furiously overtaking tuk-tuks, vehicles and motorbikes, narrowly avoiding a collision because it slows to permit passengers to scramble on earlier than veering again into the capital’s hectic site visitors. Welcome aboard the No. 8 bus. Notorious within the Thai capital, the No.8 route has spawned parody songs, viral TikToks, horrified YouTube movies and even a feature-length Quick & Livid-style movie. Now the old school diesel buses are being phased out and changed with cleaner electrical fashions.
However the hair-raising antics of the “Pink Devils”, as Thais name them, masks the powerful circumstances for overworked drivers incentivized to finish their routes as quick as attainable. “It’s a competitors,” stated driver Aphisak Sodmui, who has helmed his “scorching” bus—because the non-air-conditioned, normally open-windowed fashions are identified—for the previous decade.
Roughly 60 such buses work the 30-kilometre (18-mile) route, charging passengers 10 baht ($0.27) going north-south—a part of Bangkok’s wider community that carries roughly 700,000 individuals a day. A succession of high-profile No.8 deaths lately have raised requires reform and now new corporations are overhauling the system, promising an improved service and changing the buses with electrical automobiles.
However with a world rating of ninth-highest in highway fatalities in accordance with the World Well being Group, Bangkok’s new governor Chadchart Sittipunt has an extended journey forward in his makes an attempt to wash up the traffic-choked megalopolis. And it doesn’t seem like the No.8 will shake its status so simply—one of many newly inaugurated buses has already crashed, although nobody was injured.
The issue, in accordance with Thai transport professional Sumet Ongkittikul, lies with the non-public corporations who lease the route concession from the central Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA). Underneath their administration, drivers are given a share of the ticket gross sales for every journey, on prime of their salaries. “So it is rather logical that every driver tries to hurry to get as many passengers as attainable,” he defined. “Even throughout the firm the drivers are racing one another to get the passengers.”
No.8 driver Aphisak dietary supplements his day by day wage of between 150-200 baht (roughly $5) with 10 p.c of the day by day ticket gross sales. “We now have to finish the route at the very least 4 occasions a day for us to have the funds for to dwell,” Aphisak stated. However Sumet believes this form of conduct is on the best way out with the improve.
“What we hope is that the brand new operator will give extra consideration to coaching their drivers… to behave higher,” he stated. Denying the No.8’s status, Yothin Wuttisakchaikul—whose household manages one of many routes—blamed it as an alternative on on-line commenters who’ve “by no means used this bus service earlier than”. “Precise passengers would know the precise service of Bus No.8,” he stated, including that whereas drivers competed, “it isn’t to a daunting diploma”.
It’s 3:30 am at a bus depot within the metropolis’s northeast, and Aphisak and his household are making ready for the day. He begins his shift at 4:00 am, clambering aboard with accomplice and bus conductor Arunee On-sawats and—on the day AFP accompanied them—their two boys, 11-year-old Phan and eight-year-old Mon. As a No.8 driver he won’t end till 9:00 pm or later if there may be rain or heavy site visitors—two near-daily ensures in Bangkok.
Aphisak—who like his kids grew up on buses along with his conductor father—stated he has by no means collided with vehicles, however admits that “pick-up vehicles principally crashed the bus I used to be driving in”. Buyer Sai Pin, 47, stated she had seen a change because the transition to the brand new buses—which now have a barely increased fare of 15 baht ($0.39). “With the outdated buses, you may encounter plenty of quick driving. The brand new buses have undoubtedly improved on that,” she informed AFP. — AFP