What’s up with Thailand’s high-speed rail network?

By Jeremiah Capacillo


After much debate and derailment, bullet trains are finally arriving in Thailand! High-speed railway plans have been in the works for nearly a decade, but the country’s first bullet train is expected to begin operations by 2023.

It’s been a long time coming. In 2010, the Thai parliament approved initial proposals to build a high-speed rail network all over the country. This initiative underwent continuous development until 2014, when a military coup called off all pending transport railway plans.

Three years later, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha resumed the high-speed railway plans. In 2017, budgets for four high-speed railways were added to the fiscal year. Currently, two are under construction: Phase one of the northeastern high-speed railway from Bangkok to Khorat and the eastern high-speed railway from the Thai capital to U-Tapao airport near Pattaya. Both are expected to usher in a new age of fast-paced travel for Thailand.

Northeastern high-speed railway

Connecting the cities of Bangkok and Ayutthaya with the provinces of Saraburi and Nakhon Ratchasima in the first phase, the northeastern high-speed railway began construction in December 2017. The development is part of the Bangkok-Nong Khai high-speed railway, which – later on – will connect to Thailand’s border town with Laos of Nong Khai as a constituent part of the Kunming–Singapore railway, planned within China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The first phase spans 253 kilometers. With a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour, passengers can travel from Bangkok to Khorat in only 77 minutes.

The route is being built with a budget of $5.9 billion from Thai public funds. Nearly all construction for this railway will be managed by Chinese state companies.

The project has got the populace pumped, but a few critics have voiced their dissent. Some are aghast at the extremely high cost of the high-speed rail. The Thailand Development Research Institute estimated the line would need to carry around 50,000 to 85,000 passengers each day for 20 years in order to recoup the investment. However, these figures contrast starkly with the transport ministry’s forecast of 5,000 to 25,000 riders per day.

Moreover, some feel like the northeastern high-speed railway route is way too expensive for a project that will mainly benefit China, as northeastern Thailand isn’t a really hotspot for tourists. Others speculate that this railway is being built solely to maintain diplomatic relations with China.

The eastern high-speed railway

The other bullet train route in the works will connect three Thai airports – namely, Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao Airport – via high-speed train. Thailand’s beach destination of Pattaya will also be connected to the railway, as well as the provinces of Chachoengsao and Chonburi.

Laid out over 260 kilometers, the eastern high-speed railway route boasts a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour and will reduce travel time between Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi to just 20 minutes and between Bangkok and Pattaya to only 45 minutes.

Construction on this bullet trail route began in October 2019, with a budget of 224 billion baht (roughly $7.4 billion). Costs will be covered by the Eastern High-Speed Rail Linking Three Airports Co Ltd, a private consortium led by Thailand’s CP Group in exchange for real estate concessions and a 50-year license to privately operate the line.

As it links three Thai airports, the route will carry a majority of the country’s tourist traffic and is expected to reduce vehicular traffic in Bangkok’s roads.

However, some critics question the need for this particular high-speed train route, given the relatively short distance between both Bangkok airports and the high funding costs. Additionally, 3,000 houses will have to be demolished in order to build the bullet train line.

Final boarding call

Thailand’s high speed rail network expects to have its maiden voyage by 2023, when phase one of the northeastern route is projected to be up and running. By 2024, the eastern route will begin operations as well.

Eager cross-country travelers may want to temper their excitement a bit. The Covid-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdown measures have affected construction schedules on both railways, and negotiations over phase two of the northeastern route have stalled.

Still, both Thai high speed trains come at an opportune time coinciding with the inauguration of the Bang Sue Central Station, Thailand’s first mega railway station which will open by January 2021. Together, the three developments mark an invigorating fresh start in Thailand’s new age of rail travel.



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By Jeremiah Capacillo After much debate and derailment, bullet trains are finally arriving in Thailand! High-speed railway plans have been in the works for nearly a decade, but the country’s first bullet train is expected to begin operations by 2023. It’s been a long time coming. In 2010, the Thai parliament approved initial proposals to build a high-speed rail network all over the country. This initiative underwent continuous development until 2014, when a military coup called off all pending transport railway plans. Three years later, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha resumed the high-speed railway plans. In 2017, budgets for four high-speed...

By Jeremiah Capacillo


After much debate and derailment, bullet trains are finally arriving in Thailand! High-speed railway plans have been in the works for nearly a decade, but the country’s first bullet train is expected to begin operations by 2023.

It’s been a long time coming. In 2010, the Thai parliament approved initial proposals to build a high-speed rail network all over the country. This initiative underwent continuous development until 2014, when a military coup called off all pending transport railway plans.

Three years later, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha resumed the high-speed railway plans. In 2017, budgets for four high-speed railways were added to the fiscal year. Currently, two are under construction: Phase one of the northeastern high-speed railway from Bangkok to Khorat and the eastern high-speed railway from the Thai capital to U-Tapao airport near Pattaya. Both are expected to usher in a new age of fast-paced travel for Thailand.

Northeastern high-speed railway

Connecting the cities of Bangkok and Ayutthaya with the provinces of Saraburi and Nakhon Ratchasima in the first phase, the northeastern high-speed railway began construction in December 2017. The development is part of the Bangkok-Nong Khai high-speed railway, which – later on – will connect to Thailand’s border town with Laos of Nong Khai as a constituent part of the Kunming–Singapore railway, planned within China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The first phase spans 253 kilometers. With a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour, passengers can travel from Bangkok to Khorat in only 77 minutes.

The route is being built with a budget of $5.9 billion from Thai public funds. Nearly all construction for this railway will be managed by Chinese state companies.

The project has got the populace pumped, but a few critics have voiced their dissent. Some are aghast at the extremely high cost of the high-speed rail. The Thailand Development Research Institute estimated the line would need to carry around 50,000 to 85,000 passengers each day for 20 years in order to recoup the investment. However, these figures contrast starkly with the transport ministry’s forecast of 5,000 to 25,000 riders per day.

Moreover, some feel like the northeastern high-speed railway route is way too expensive for a project that will mainly benefit China, as northeastern Thailand isn’t a really hotspot for tourists. Others speculate that this railway is being built solely to maintain diplomatic relations with China.

The eastern high-speed railway

The other bullet train route in the works will connect three Thai airports – namely, Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao Airport – via high-speed train. Thailand’s beach destination of Pattaya will also be connected to the railway, as well as the provinces of Chachoengsao and Chonburi.

Laid out over 260 kilometers, the eastern high-speed railway route boasts a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour and will reduce travel time between Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi to just 20 minutes and between Bangkok and Pattaya to only 45 minutes.

Construction on this bullet trail route began in October 2019, with a budget of 224 billion baht (roughly $7.4 billion). Costs will be covered by the Eastern High-Speed Rail Linking Three Airports Co Ltd, a private consortium led by Thailand’s CP Group in exchange for real estate concessions and a 50-year license to privately operate the line.

As it links three Thai airports, the route will carry a majority of the country’s tourist traffic and is expected to reduce vehicular traffic in Bangkok’s roads.

However, some critics question the need for this particular high-speed train route, given the relatively short distance between both Bangkok airports and the high funding costs. Additionally, 3,000 houses will have to be demolished in order to build the bullet train line.

Final boarding call

Thailand’s high speed rail network expects to have its maiden voyage by 2023, when phase one of the northeastern route is projected to be up and running. By 2024, the eastern route will begin operations as well.

Eager cross-country travelers may want to temper their excitement a bit. The Covid-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdown measures have affected construction schedules on both railways, and negotiations over phase two of the northeastern route have stalled.

Still, both Thai high speed trains come at an opportune time coinciding with the inauguration of the Bang Sue Central Station, Thailand’s first mega railway station which will open by January 2021. Together, the three developments mark an invigorating fresh start in Thailand’s new age of rail travel.



Support ASEAN news

Investvine has been a consistent voice in ASEAN news for more than a decade. From breaking news to exclusive interviews with key ASEAN leaders, we have brought you factual and engaging reports – the stories that matter, free of charge.

Like many news organisations, we are striving to survive in an age of reduced advertising and biased journalism. Our mission is to rise above today’s challenges and chart tomorrow’s world with clear, dependable reporting.

Support us now with a donation of your choosing. Your contribution will help us shine a light on important ASEAN stories, reach more people and lift the manifold voices of this dynamic, influential region.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $10.00

 

 

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