Pansak Vinyarat, chairman of the Prime Minister's advisory board, will oversee the four newly-announced high-speed rail routes. The 400-billion-baht first phase is scheduled to be completed in 2018. Cost of the first phase is estimated at 400 billion baht. Trains will travel at speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour.
The high-speed train system will run alongside existing lines for the Bangkok-Pattaya-Rayong line from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.
The Pattaya train line runs parallel to Sukhumvit Highway 3, about 200 meters east of the main thoroughfare. Nearby train terminals for Pattaya are already built on Siam Country Club Road in Central Pattaya and on Wat Yan Road in Na Jomtien.
The entire route can be traveled in under an hour on the 220 kilometer Bangkok-Airport-Pattaya-Rayong route. Pattaya to the airport will take about 35 minutes and Pattaya-Bangkok will take 42 minutes.
The other three routes are Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima (256 kilometers in 1 hour, 35 minutes); Bangkok-Hua Hin (225 kilometers in 1 hour, 9 minutes); and Bangkok-Phitsanulok-Chiang Mai (745 kilometers in 3 hours, 44 minutes).
The high-speed train will reach other Asean member countries and southern China with both passenger and goods trains, expected to carry products such as light parts, high-tech parts, seafood, fresh-cut flowers, vegetables and fruits.
The government anticipates that goods shipment by rail will increase to 80% of the total domestic shipments in six years from only 2% now. This will reduce logistics costs by 35% or 400 billion baht a year on lower petrol consumption.
In the second stage of these projects, slated for completion by 2022, the high-speed lines will be extended to Bangkok-Nong Khai, and Bangkok-Hat Yai, covering all the major regions of Thailand.
Most importantly, the Bangkok-Nong Khai route to the Northeast is expected to link with high-speed trains from Laos and southern China. Construction of the China-Laos section of the high-speed line is expected to commence soon.
During the tenure of the previous Democrat government, China and Thailand reached a preliminary agreement to cooperate on the high-speed train project, as China aims to link its southern region with the mainland Asean countries.
The Asean Economic Community (AEC), which will become effective in 2015, is a key driver in the government's bid to revive the four high-speed train routes, as Thailand has the potential to be a hub in the mainland AEC for both cargo and tourist traffic.
These projects will also lead to a better link for Thailand’s Laem Chabang Port with Myanmar's proposed Dawei (Tavoy) deep-sea port and industrial estate 500 kilometers away near Kanchanaburi.
Besides China, India is also keen to connect with Asean countries via its border with Myanmar. The Indian government has offered a US$500 million credit line to Myanmar, of which $100 million is earmarked for construction of a trilateral highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand.
The route will be 3,200 kilometers in total length, and development work includes improvement of existing roads in India and Myanmar, which will be linked with Thailand via the northern provinces of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, as well as via a route for the planned Dawei port. This will complete the Asean east-west economic corridor running from India, Myanmar and Thailand to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
For the Asean north-south economic corridor, the route starts in southern China and connect through Myanmar, Laos and Thailand to Cambodia and Vietnam, and then all the way down to Malaysia and Singapore.
By assigning Pansak to spearhead the THB 400-billion high-speed train schemes in Thailand, the government is playing a crucial role in pushing for fast-track
implementation of Asean connectivity schemes, which cover highways, railways and other modes of transportation. It is hoped that the transport infrastructure will eventually be designed to cover the entire 10-country regional grouping, which has a combined population of 600 million.
Besides Asean itself, the grouping has another six partner countries, namely China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, whose combined population accounts for half of the world's total.
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