Energy credit card scheme may need rejig Some NGV stations decline to participate

The Energy Ministry wants drivers to have better access to energy credit cards to offset the rising price of natural gas for vehicles (NGV).

The issue was raised at a meeting to monitor the government's energy policy chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong.

There are a total of 18,351 energy credit card holders, of whom 6,959 or 38% are active spenders.

The government's plan called for card holders to enjoy a reduction in NGV prices for taxis, tuk-tuks, public buses, mini buses and truck entrepreneurs.

Taxi drivers have complained they cannot access the services at NGV stations and that some stations refuse to accept the cards.

Mr Kittiratt said the Energy Ministry has been instructed to outline a plan for dealing with the increase in energy prices and to find solutions.

The National Energy Policy Committee late last year approved a rise in the NGV price by 50 satang a kilogramme each month from January until December this year while decreasing the subsidy on price by the same amount every month from January to April.

However, the government last month yielded to demands from taxi drivers and transport entrepreneurs to increase the price only for four months until April to allow time for adjustment.

Government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng said PTT Plc reported at the meeting that there were 34,954 applications for energy credit cards, with the state-owned Krung Thai Bank (KTB) approving 26,700 applicants.

The bank has distributed 26,075 cards to PTT and 18,351 to card holders.

Spending via the cards has increased with time. In the first month of issue in December, just 52 cardholders bought 40,000 baht worth of fuel with the cards.

The credit amount rose to 5.07 million in January and 11.5 million for the period between Jan 26 and Feb 21.

The credit limit for each card is 3,000 baht a month, and the discount for NGV prices is 9,000 baht a month.

Some 10% of approved card holders missed payments on the due date. An official from KTB said PTT would be responsible for the overdue payments but no solution has been reached.

PTT also assured the meeting that sufficient NGV stations exist relative to the numbers of taxis, or 666 cars per station. The company plans to add 33 stations to bring the total to 502 by the end of this year.

Witoon Naewpanich, chairman of Siam Taxi Cooperatives, said previously that the government had solved the problem for taxi drivers - 50% of whom do not have their own car licences - by issuing discount cards for each driver, instead of the energy credit card. The Energy Ministry has issued about 50,000 discount cards.

Nonetheless, Mr Witoon said problems remain because some NGV stations allow drivers with discount cards to fill up only at two dispensers out of a total of 16. Therefore, taxis must wait a long time.

The second problem is some NGV stations refuse to offer service to those with discount cards, while the credit card system fails quite often.

The government was urged to ask PTT and KTB to solve these issues.
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