Last Thursday saw the inauguration of an airport to city bus link in Chiang Mai. A fleet of 11 smart buses is being used to serve Route R3. These are air-conditioned and fitted with access facilities for disabled passengers. The timetable shows buses run at 20 minute intervals with the first ones at 06:00 and the last at 22:30. The frequency after 20:00 is scaled down to once every half hour.
Buses run both clockwise and anti-clockwise on the same route and stop at 26 bus-stops. This takes in locations including Nimman One at the Nimmanhaemin Road crossroads, Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Centre, the Old City, the Three King’s Statue, Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai Gate and the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre.
The initial service is being operated as a trial and provides free travel until the 11 April. There will be no service over the Songkran Festival holiday (between the 12 and 15 April). The R3 will then officially launch as a fare-paying service on the 16 April. When the bus service was first announced, the proposal was for passengers to pay flat fares of THB20 no matter the number of stops travelled.
The Thai Regional Transit Corporation (RTC) operates the R3 bus service and has not so far confirmed if the fares will be THB20. According to the National News Bureau of Thailand, payment will be via RTC Rabbit linked cards. These are sold at a service counter at the airport plus other official outlets. The new route is in line with Thai governmental policy of increasing public transport choices for residents and tourists.