State Railway of Thailand

Airport Rail Link (Bangkok) High-speed rail in Thailand Horsepower
State Railway of Thailand
State Railway of Thailand Logo 2019.svg
Thailand rail map.gif
Overview
Headquarters1 Rong Mueang Road, Rong Mueang, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
LocaleThailand
Dates of operation1890–present
Technical
Track gauge1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) meter gauge
Previous gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Length4,070 km (2,530 mi)
Other
Websitewww.railway.co.th/main/index_en.html

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) (Thai: การรถไฟแห่งประเทศไทย, abrev. รฟท., RTGSkan rot fai haeng prathet thai) is the state-owned rail operator under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport in Thailand.

History

HRH Prince Purachatra Jayakara, the first commissioner general of the Royal State Railways of Siam

The SRT was founded as the Royal State Railways of Siam (RSR) in 1890. King Chulalongkorn ordered the Department of Railways to be set up under the Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning. Construction of the Bangkok-Ayutthaya railway (71 km or 44 mi), the first part of the Northern Line, was started in 1890 and inaugurated on 26 March 1896.[1] The Thonburi-Phetchaburi line (150 km or 93 mi), later the Southern Line, was opened on 19 June 1903. The first railway commander of the RSR was Prince Purachatra Jayakara (Krom Phra Kamphaeng Phet Akkarayothin).

The Northern Line was originally built as 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge , but in September 1919 it was decided to standardize on 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) meter gauge and the Northern Line was regauged during the next ten years. On 1 July 1951, RSR changed its name to the present State Railway of Thailand, which has status as a state enterprise agency.[1]

As of 2014 SRT had 4,043 km (2,512 mi) of track, all of it meter gauge except the Airport Link. Nearly all is single-track (3,685 km), although some important sections around Bangkok are double (251 km or 156 mi) or triple-tracked (107 km or 66 mi) and there are plans to extend this.[2] By comparison, Thailand has 390,000 km (242,335 miles) of highways.[3]

As of 2018, the network serves 47 provinces and around 35 million passengers annually. The passenger count is expected to double by 2027 when expansion plans are realised and the network grows to serve 61 provinces.[4] On 7 April 2020, the Thai cabinet named Nirut Maneephan as the new chief of the SRT, the 29th governor in its history.[5]

SRT issues

Some buildings of the State Railway of Thailand, it is located at 1 Rong Mueang, Pathum Wan, Bangkok next to Bangkok railway station or Hua Lamphong railway station
Third-class carriage (with 'Hall' seating arrangement) of Thailand State Railways

Financial performance

SRT's budget from the central government for FY2019 is 9,987 million baht, down from 12,914 million baht in FY2018.[6]

In 2017, the SRT lost 17 billion baht.[7] The SRT has suffered a loss every year since it was turned into a state-owned enterprise under the Transport Ministry in 1951.[8] The SRT has debts amounting to nearly 100 billion baht, and its annual operating losses are estimated at a minimum of 10 billion baht.[3]

In 2017 the military government budgeted more than 76 billion baht for SRT infrastructure investments. The funding is to be used for double-track rail expansions, an extension of Bangkok's elevated railway, and construction of bridges, fences, and track improvements. In the fiscal year ending 30 September 2016, however, the SRT had managed to disburse only 53 percent of its allotted investment budget of 60 billion baht. This compares with an average disbursement rate of 80 percent by Thailand's other 55 state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Disbursement rate is seen as an indicator of efficient management.[3] "If you look at the SRT they are a bit like a patient in [intensive care] and everyone is saying to him 'you are the future' and trying to kick him out of bed when he is still moaning and groaning," said Ruth Banomyong, a logistics and transport expert at Thammasat University.[3]

The worst financially performing state enterprise, the SRT consistently operates at a loss despite being endowed with large amounts of property—the SRT is one of Thailand's largest land holders, owning an estimated 39,840 hectares[3] and receiving large government subsidies. It reported a preliminary loss of 7.58 billion baht in 2010.[9] Recurring government attempts at restructuring and/or privatization throughout the 2000s have always been strongly opposed by the union and have not made any progress.[10][11]

SRT's latest property development scheme is the Chao Phraya Gateway project. It capitalises on SRT's 277 rai, 1.16 kilometre stretch of land on the river in the Khlong Toei District. The SRT hopes the project will help clear its 100 billion baht debt. The project is projected to break even within eight years and deliver profits of 140 billion baht. As of April 2019, SRT's plans are being submitted to the Transport Ministry for approval.[12]

SRT's failings are reflected in passenger numbers, which, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit have dropped from 88 million in 1994 to 44 million in 2014.[13] The SRT has long been popularly perceived by the public as inefficient and resistant to change. Trains are usually late, and most of its equipment is old and poorly maintained. Although SRT's operational costs amount to two baht per kilometre traveled, SRT fares defray only a fraction of that cost. SRT has not been permitted to hike fares hike since 1985.[14]

Under the auspices of the Transport Ministry, the SRT has submitted a rehabilitation plan that will be presented to the State Enterprise Policy Commission on 30 July 2018. The commission, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to approve the plan. The plan calls for SRT to become the largest railway state enterprise in ASEAN. By 2027, anticipating income growth from asset management and cost management, SRT foresees profits of over 20 billion baht.[7]

Hopewell litigation

Hopewell Holdings of Hong Kong was the lead contractor for SRT's ill-fated Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System. The project commenced in 1990 and was terminated by the Thai government in 1998, only 13% complete. Hopewell and the SRT each blamed the other for the failure of the 80 billion baht project.[15] Both parties sued, and the case has been in litigation since its cancellation. On 23 April 2019, Thailand's Supreme Administrative Court upheld an arbitration committee's ruling in favour of Hopewell. The court ordered SRT to pay Hopewell compensation of 11.88 billion baht, plus 7.5% interest per year. The interest, totaling 13 billion baht, brings SRT's total liability to nearly 25 billion baht, payable within 180 days.[16]

Lack of freight revenue

Rail freight, which is cheaper—only roughly half the cost of road transport[17]—safer, and more environmentally-friendly than road transport, accounted for only 1.4 percent of freight tonnage carried in 2015. SRT aims to boost its share of cargo transport to six percent with its double track expansion by 2022. Expansion of SRT's freight service, which could earn more money than the heavily subsidized passenger service, has been neglected for decades in favour of Thailand's roads.[3]

Workforce

The SRT's poor financial performance and resistance to reform, coupled with the Asian financial crisis of 1997, resulted in stringent restraints being placed on SRT staffing. In July 1998, the Thai cabinet issued an order that the SRT could only hire five new employees for every 100 retirees. As of 2018, the order remains in effect.[4] SRT officials estimated in 2017 that the enterprise needed to boost staff by 20 percent to 12,000.[3] In 2018 SRT claims that it needs 18,015 employees to operate efficiently, but only has 10,035 on staff.[4] The train maintenance workforce has dwindled to 500 from 3,000 over the past 30 years.[14] To make up the shortfall, the SRT hires around 4,000 "daily workers", usually on daily wages of 300 baht. It has also caused the SRT to pay massive amounts of overtime pay to current employees. For example, one station master in Pattani was paid 61,210 baht in monthly salary, but also an additional 102,271 baht in overtime pay.[4]

As of July 2019, SRT employed 10,292 permanent staffers and 4,038 temporary contractors, totaling 14,220. In that month the SRT Board approved the addition of 1,330 new workers to bring the workforce to 15,660, still fewer than needed to address staff shortages.[18]

Management issues

To address a long list of complaints accusing SRT of a lack of transparency in bids for projects and procurement deals, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha fired the governor and board of the State Railway of Thailand in February 2017, using his special powers under Section 44 of the interim constitution.[19][20]

Ticketing

Tickets may be purchased on-line starting 1 February 2017.[21] Tickets may be purchased from 60 days in advance to two hours before departure.[22]

Network

State Railway of Thailand
Thanaleng, Laos
Nong Khai
Udon Thani
Khon Kaen
Ban Phai
Chiang Mai
Ubon Ratchathani
Lamphun
Si Sa Ket
Surin
Nakhon Lampang
Buriram
Sila At
Uttaradit
Chatturat
Sawankhalok
Nakhon Ratchasima
 
Phitsanulok
Aranyaprathet
Phichit
Prachin Buri
Nakhon Sawan
Lop Buri
Saraburi
Suphanburi
Ayutthaya
Nakhon Pathom
Bang Sue Junction
Thon Buri
Bang Sue Junction
Kanchanaburi
Bangkok
Hua Lamphong
MRT (Bangkok) logo.svg
Wongwian Yai
(MKR)
Nam Tok
Mahachai
(MKR)
Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi
ferry across Tha Chin River
Ban Laem
(MKR)
Ratchaburi
Maeklong
(MKR)
Phetchaburi
Chon Buri
Hua Hin
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Laem Chabang Port
Bang Saphan Yai
Bang Lamung
Chumphon
Pattaya
Lang Suan
Lamae
Sattahip Port
Chaiya
Map Ta Phut Port
Khiri Rat Nikhom
Surat Thani
Trang
Kantang
Nakhon Si Thammarat
Phatthalung
U Taphao Junction
Songkhla
Hat Yai Junction
Pattani
(Khok Pho)
Yala
Su-ngai Kolok
Thailand
Malaysia
border (closed)
Padang Besar
Pasir Mas
Second-class carriage of the State Railway of Thailand at Bangkok railway station

The SRT operates all of Thailand's national rail lines. Bangkok railway station (Hua Lamphong) is the main terminus of all routes. Phahonyothin and ICD Ladkrabang are the main freight terminals.

Northern Line

A train on the Northern Line of the State Railway of Thailand en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

The Northern Line runs alongside the Northeastern Line until the Ban Phachi Junction. There, it splits from the Northeastern Line and proceeds through Lopburi, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Denchai, Lampang, Lamphun, before finally reaching Chiang Mai, 751 km from Bangkok. There is also a branch off the mainline from Ban Dara Junction to Sawankhalok in Sukhothai Province.

Northeastern Line

Fueling express train no. 72 at Nakhon Ratchasima Station

The Northeastern Line begins on the same route as the Northern Line, splitting at Ban Phachi Junction towards Nakhon Ratchasima. Then at Thanon Chira Junction, the line splits with one route passing Khon Kaen and Udon Thani before terminating at Nong Khai 624 kilometers from Bangkok. The other route passes through Buriram, Surin, Sisaket to reach Ubon Ratchathani, 575 km from Bangkok.

There is also another branch route originating from Kaeng Khoi Junction in Saraburi Province passing through Chai Badan District in Lopburi Province and Chatturat District in Chaiyaphum Province, before joining the mainline heading towards Nong Khai at Bua Yai Junction in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.

Southern Line

A OTOP tourist train for operation on the Southern Line of the State Railway of Thailand

The Southern Line begins in Bangkok and heads west towards Nakhon Pathom before splitting into three different routes. One route heads west to Kanchanaburi Province (210 km) while another heads north towards Suphan Buri (157 km). The Southern Line itself continues southbound through Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, Chumphon, to Surat Thani 678 kilometers distant. From Surat Thani, there is a westerly branch towards Khiri Rat Nikhom while the main line continues south to Thung Song Junction in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province where another branch reaches Kantang in Trang Province. Not far away, another branch separates off the mainline at Khao Chum Thong Junction. The main line from Nakhon Sri Thammarat continues through Phatthalung before reaching Hat Yai Junction in Songkhla Province. From here, a line branches to connect with the Malaysian railway at Padang Besar and the mainline continues to Su-ngai Kolok passing through Yala Province.

Namtok Branch

Eastern Line

The Eastern Line begins at Bangkok before heading through Chacheongsao, Prachinburi to terminate at Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaew Province, 255 kilometers from Bangkok. There is a reopened rail link to Cambodia from Aranyaprathet. A branch line also connects Khlong Sip Kao Junction to the Northeastern Line at Kaeng Khoi Junction. At Chachoengsao Junction, there is another branch to Sattahip. Along the route to Sattahip, at Si Racha Junction, there is yet another branch towards Laem Chabang Deep Sea Port and further at Khao Chi Chan Junction for Map Ta Phut Port, in Rayong.

Maeklong Line

Maeklong Railway
Pak Khlong San
Wongwian Yai
Talat Phlu
Khlong Ton Sai
Chom Thong
Wat Sai
Wat Sing
Bang Bon
Khan Keha
Rang Sakae
Rang Pho
Sam Yaek
Phrom Daen
Thung Si Thong
Bang Nam Chuet
Khok Khwai
Ban Khom
Khlong Chak
Maha Chai
Tha Chin River
Ban Laem
Tha Chalom
Ban Chi Phakhao
Khlong Noklek
Bang Sikhot
Bang Krachao
Ban Bo
Bang Thorat
Ban Kalong
Ban Na Khwang
Ban Na Khok
Ked Mueang
Lad Yai
Bang Krabun
Maeklong

The Maeklong Railway, also operated by the SRT, is independent of the national rail network and is split into two sections. The line begins at Wongwian Yai in Bangkok before terminating at Mahachai where a ferry is used by passengers to cross the Tha Chin River. The line starts again across the river at Ban Laem and continues towards Mae Klong.[24]

Services

Intercity services

First-class sleeping carriage of State Railway of Thailand at Bangkok railway station
Second-class carriage of the State Railway of Thailand
Second-class sleeping carriage of the State Railway of Thailand at Bangkok railway station
A passenger car of the Northern Line of the State Railway of Thailand.
The bunk in a passenger car of the Northern Line of the State Railway of Thailand.

SRT operates intercity passenger services on the following lines:

Northern Line

Northeastern Line

Eastern Line

Southern Line

International services

SRT previously (until 2016) operated international services to Butterworth in Penang, Malaysia, in conjunction with Malaysian state operator KTM. However, since early 2016 there is now just one "International Express" in each direction per day and this service now terminates at Padang Besar Station on the Thai/Malay border.[25]

A link across the First Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge to Thanaleng railway station, near Vientiane, opened in March 2009.[26]

There are plans to re-open rail links to Cambodia via Poipet from the railhead at Aranyaprathet. Railway connections to Myanmar (Burma), notably the infamous Death Railway, are defunct.

In December 2010, following Chinese plans to extend their (standard gauge) network to Xishuangbanna on the China-Laos border and further into Laos,[27] the Thai government agreed to start negotiations on building a standard-gauge network.[28] This would initially involve two lines: from Bangkok to the Lao border, and a longer line from Bangkok along the peninsula to the Malay border.[29]

SRT also allows operation of the Eastern and Oriental Express on their tracks which runs from Singapore to Bangkok and vice versa, with a few trips to Laos and Chiang Mai.

Rail links to adjacent countries

Commuter trains

The SRT operates commuter rail services from Bangkok along the Northern and Northeastern Lines up to Ayutthaya, Ban Phachi Junction, Lopburi and Kaeng Khoi Junction. Ten trains run along the route on a daily basis.[32] A new service serving between Thonburi and Sala Ya was launched on 22 October 2010.[33]

The Red Line project is a new commuter rail system also owned by the SRT. It is currently under construction and will replace portions of rail lines running through Bangkok, eliminating at-grade crossings.

Other passenger services

SRT operates the Airport Link to Suvarnabhumi Airport which opened in 2010.[34] It is medium speed (160 km/h) and links with BTS Skytrain at Phaya Thai station and MRT at Phetchaburi MRT station.

Freight

Thai railways transported around 11 million tons of freight per year in 2007-2012, which was around 2% of the total amount of freight moved by all modes of transportation.[35] While it is possible for freight trains to travel between Thailand and the neighboring countries (Malaysia and Laos), the amount of international rail freight presently constitutes only a minuscule portion of Thailand's foreign trade. In 2012, merely 95 thousand tons of export cargo left Thailand by rail, as compared to 12 million tons of cargo exported by road, and 114 million tons of cargo exported by ship. For import, the rail transport's share was even smaller.[35]

Thai railways transport both bulk freight (primarily oil products and construction materials) and containerized freight. Most of the freight movement is between Bangkok and sea ports (in particular, between the deepwater port of Laem Chabang and the container terminal in Lad Krabang, in Bangkok's eastern suburbs).[36]

In an attempt to increase the railway's share of the nation's freight transportation market, in 2016 the SRT, in a joint project with Japan, started experimenting with small, 12-foot containers. It is thought that, being smaller than the standard 20-foot containers, these containers can be more easily transported by truck between a rail station and the end customer. These containers are being tried on two routes from Bangkok's Bang Sue station: a 722-km route to Lamphun Province in the north of the country, and a 433-km route to Khon Kaen in the northeast.[37]

Locomotives and multiple units

Active fleet

Diesel locomotives

Type Manufacturer Numbers Year(s) built Quantity built Power Max speed (km/h) Image Note
UM12C[38] (GE[39]) General Electric 4001-4050[38][39][40] 1963 (4001-4040)[38][40]
1966 (4041-4050)[38][40]
50[38][39][40] 1,320 hp (0.98 MW)[38]
(660 hp (0.49 MW)x2)
103[39] State Railways Thailand 4041 Kanchanaburi.jpg Refurbished around 2010-2011.
AD24C[41] (ALS[39]) Alsthom[41] 4101-4154[39][41] 1974–1975[41] 54[41] 2,400 hp (1.79 MW)[41] 90[39][41] Locomotive 4144.jpg First batch of AD24C locomotives. Some refurbished with new MTU 16V4000R41R[42] or Caterpillar diesel engines.
AD24C[41] (AHK[39]) Alsthom,[41] Henschel[41] and Krupp[41] 4201-4230[39][41] 1980[41] 30[41] 2,400 hp (1.79 MW)[41] 100[39][41] State Railways Thailand 4228 Locomotive.jpg Second batch of AD24C, built under license by Henschel and Krupp. Some refurbished with new MTU 16V4000R41R[42] or Caterpillar diesel engines.
AD24C[41] (ALD[39]) Alsthom[41] 4301-4309[39][41] 1983[41] 9[41] 2,400 hp (1.79 MW) 100[39][41] ALD4301.JPG Third batch of AD24C. Some refurbished with Caterpillar diesel engines.
AD24C[41] (ADD[39]) Alsthom[41] 4401-4420[39][41] 1985[41] 20[41] 2,400 hp (1.79 MW)[41] 100[39][41] ADD4406.JPG Fourth and last batch of AD24C. Some refurbished with new MTU 16V4000R41R[42] or Caterpillar diesel engines.
8FA-36C (HID[39]) Hitachi 4501-4522[39] 1993 22 2,860 hp (2.13 MW)
(1,430 hp (1.07 MW)x2)
100[39] Hua Lamphong Railway Station, Bangkok (12250460936).jpg First batch of Main Line Locomotive Program, used MAN Diesel engines in the short-term[citation needed], then replaced by Cummins KTTA-50L engine, later modified to KTA-50L
CM22-7i[38] (GEA[39]) General Electric 4523-4560[38][39] 1995–1996[38] 38[38] 2,500 hp (1.86 MW)[38]
(1,250 hp (0.93 MW)x2)
100[39] GEA4539.JPG Second batch of Main Line Locomotive Program, used Cummins KTA-50L[38] engine. Some locomotives air-conditioned.
CSR SDA3 CRRC Qishuyan 5101-5120[43] 2013–2015[44][45] 20[44] 3,190 hp (2.38 MW)[44] 120 But limited 100[44] SRT 5101 (5103 B W).jpg 5101-5120 In Active

Use Caterpillar C175-16 ACERT engines[44]

Diesel multiple units

Type Manufacturer Numbers Year built Quantity built Power (horsepower) Max speed (km/h) Image Note
RHN Hitachi 1011-1048 (power cars)
11-48
(trailer cars)
1967 38+38 220 90 BuriramTrain4.jpg Now used as a Northeastern line commuter train. Some installed Nathan K3LA horn.
RTS Tokyu D9-D16
(power cars)
TS4-TS7
(center/trailer cars)
1971 8+4 220 70 Ex-Mahachai railways, to be refurbished. Similar bodyshell of THN and NKF but with different formation (power car-2 trailer cars).
THN Tokyu, Hitachi and Nippon Sharyo 1101–1140 1983 40 235 105 State Railways Thailand SRT 1113 Bangkok.jpg Similar to NKF. Some installed Nathan K3LA horn.
NKF Nippon Sharyo, Hitachi, Fuji Heavy Industries,Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Niigata Tekkousho, and Kinki Sharyo 1201–1264, (center) 2101-2112 1985 64+12 235 105 NKF1253.JPG Similar to THN, but with plastic chairs. Some installed Nathan K3LA horn.
ASR British Rail Engineering Limited, Derby Litchurch Lane Works 2501–2512, (center) 2113-2120[46] 1991 12+8 285 160 km/h but Ministry of Transport limited the top speed to 120 km/h. Metre gauge version of British Rail Class 158, with different gangways and couplers, and with inward-opening slam doors instead of plug doors. 3-car set until 2011, when all were refurbished with new seats, vinyl floors, an extra coach, plug doors and new livery. Some installed Nathan K3LA horn.
APD .20 Daewoo Heavy Industries 2513-2524 (center) 2121-2128 1995 10+8 298 120 Daewoo2515.JPG First batch, narrow body. All units installed Nathan K3LA horn.
APD .60 Daewoo Heavy Industries 2525-2544 1996 20+40 298 120 TahiLand RailWay001.JPG Second batch, wide body. All units installed Nathan K3LA horn.

Former types

Diesel hydraulic locomotives

Type Manufacturer Numbers Year built Quantity built Power (horsepower) Max speed (km/h) Image Note
CR-8b[47] Plymouth Locomotive Works 2001-2010[47] 1963 or 1964[47] 10[47] 900[47] 80[47] All locomotives withdrawn in 1968 and sent to Vietnam[47]

Future railways

Double tracking

Currently 200 km of double tracking project from Chachoengsao to Saraburi is projected to complete by end 2020.

Most of Thailand's roughly 4,000 km rail network is single track. A government initiative to move air and road transport to rail passed a major milestone on 28 December 2017 when the SRT signed nine contracts with private contractors to complete double tracking on 702 km of the SRT network. This phase one of the double-tracking project will cost 69.5 billion baht. The government's aim is to reduce the nation's logistical overhead, some 1.75 trillion baht, by moving air and road freight to rail. Moving a tonne of freight by rail costs 0.93 baht per kilometre compared with 1.72 baht by road. As of the contract signing date, 86 percent of Thailand's freight moves by road and only two percent by rail.

Phase one of the project will see the following five sections of double track laid by 2022:

Cabinet approval is expected to allow the signing of contracts for phase two of the double tracking project by March 2018. The second phase will add a second track to 2,217 km of single track over nine rail links at a cost of 398 billion baht. Government plans call for an overall investment of 600 billion baht to create 2,588 km of double tracks.[48][49]

Station demolition

The SRT board approved a plan to demolish and rebuild 298 stations as part of the double tracking upgrades. The SRT is seeking two billion baht for the demolition and reconstruction job. Also gone will be the traditional vanilla and maroon paint scheme employed by SRT since its founding. Stations to the south are to be painted blue, symbolizing the sea, and stations to the north are to be green, symbolizing forests.[50]

High Speed Railways

Northern HSR: Bangkok–Phitsanulok–Chiang Mai (Japanese-Thai project)

Japan would provide Shinkansen technology for a high-speed rail link between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai. Phase 1 would connect Bangkok to Phitsanulok. It is estimated to cost 280 billion baht. Seven stations are planned for this segment: Bang Sue, Don Mueang, Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit, and Phitsanulok. To reduce costs, Thai authorities have proposed reducing the number of stations, but the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has rejected this suggestion on the grounds that it defeats the original purpose of the project.[51] This portion of the route was scheduled to be submitted to the Thai cabinet for financial approval in August 2018.[51]

After an initial cooperation agreement was signed in 2015, the Thai government formally requested the technical and financial assistance of the Japanese government in late-2016 for the building of the Northern HSR line to Chiang Mai.[52] The Japanese completed a feasibility study which estimated that the project will cost 420 billion baht to build.[53]

A feasibility study by JICA in mid-2018 reported that the train as planned would run at a loss. JICA's study projects only 10,000 passengers per day on the route, as opposed to the 30,000 per day forecasted in the original planning proposals. To be profitable from ticket sales would require 50,000 fares per day.[51]

The Thai government announced in September 2019 that it may cancel Bangkok-Chiang Mai high-speed rail project after private investors declined to invest. The cost of the 670 kilometre line is estimated to be 400 billion baht. Japan has turned down the project as a bad investment due to low passenger projections.[54]

Eastern HSR: Bangkok–U-Tapao Airport

A HSR line to the eastern seaboard was first proposed in 1996 but there was no progress for over a decade. In 2009, the government requested the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) to create a plan for new HSR network in Thailand that included an eastern HSR line to Rayong. The route was finalised before the 2011 election with the promise to begin construction the next year if the government was re-elected, but they lost the election. After the 2011 election, the new government reviewed all HSR plans and the SRT stated that the line would be tendered in early-2014.[55] After the May 2014 coup there were further delays while the military government reviewed all HSR lines, initially deferring all projects. In early-2016, the government agreed to proceed with the eastern HSR route and suggested that it could be extended to Don Mueang International Airport beyond the terminus at Bang Sue Intercity Terminal thus providing a link with three airports.[56] Extending the line would provide a link between Don Mueang Airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, and U-Tapao International Airport in Ban Chang District.

During 2017, OTP and the Ministry of Transport in consultation with the SRT agreed that by extending the line to terminate at Don Mueang it would effectively include the long delayed extension of the Airport Rail Link (Bangkok) from Makkasan Station to Don Mueang Airport as part of the project. The Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EEC Office) in October 2017 finalised previous OTP plans to build the 10 station Eastern HSR line linking Don Mueang airport, Bang Sue, Makkasan, Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chonburi, Si Racha, Pattaya, U-Tapao Airport, and Rayong. In early-2018, the section to Rayong was excluded due to environmental and safety concerns and it was decided that the line would terminate at U-Tapao Airport.[57]

The SRT stated that the first tenders for the Eastern HSR line are expected to be tendered by May 2018 with a four month auction period before the contract is awarded.[58] The cost of the project was estimated to be over 200 billion baht, of which the Thai Government would fund 123 billion baht and the private sector estimated to contribute 90 billion baht.[59][60]

Two rival consortia vied for the airport link contract.[61] The Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group-led consortium consisting of Italian-Thai Development, China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, CH. Karnchang, and Bangkok Expressway and Metro, won the project with a 224 billion baht bid in December 2018. Their winning bid is valid until 8 November 2019. Until 16 October 2019, the consortium had refused to sign the contract, citing land expropriation and eviction problems and the consortium's request that the government share the risk in the project.[62] Negotiations were further complicated by the resignation of the entire board of the State Railway.[63] On 16 October 2019, news reports announced that the CP consortium intends to sign the rail deal on 25 October.[64] Tanit Sorat, Vice-Chairman of the Employers' Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry, said that the contract signing delays are "...unlikely to affect the project because the government will carry out the project smoothly."[62] The project was eventually approved in October 2019 as a public private partnership between the Thai government and Charoen Pokphand/China Railway Construction Corporation. The assets will revert to state ownership after 50 years.[65]

Northeastern HSR: Bangkok–Nakhon Ratchasima–Nong Khai (Sino-Thai railway project)

In November 2014, Thailand and China signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to construct the Thai portion of the transnational railway running from Kunming, China to the Gulf of Thailand. In November 2015, both parties agreed to a division of labour. Under the framework, a joint venture would be set up to run the project. China would conduct feasibility studies, design the system, construct tunnels and bridges, and lay track. Thailand would conduct social and environmental impact studies, expropriate land for construction, handle general civil engineering and power supply, and supply construction materials.

Once built, China would operate and maintain the system for the first three years of operation. Between the third and the seventh years, both countries would share responsibility. Later Thailand would take on responsibility with China as adviser. China would train Thai personnel to operate and maintain the system.

Dual standard-gauge tracks would be laid throughout the project. In Thailand, two routes would diverge at a junction in Kaeng Khoi District in Saraburi Province. One to connect Bangkok to Kaeng Khoi. The other route to connect Kaeng Khoi with Map Ta Phut of Rayong Province. From Kaeng Khoi tracks would lead north to Nakhon Ratchasima and on to Nong Khai Province. Construction would be divided into four sections: Bangkok-Kaeng Khoi, Map Ta Phut-Kaeng Khoi, Kaeng Khoi-Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai.

Construction of Thailand's 873-kilometre-long portion of the railway system started in December 2017 [66][67] and the Phase 1 line is due to open in 2023.[68] It will connect to a 417 km line from Vientiane to the northern Lao border and a 520 km line from the Lao border to Kunming.[69]

Southern HSR: Bangkok–Hua Hin

This line would link Bangkok with Hua Hin. It would be 211 km long and estimated costs in 2016 were 152 billion baht.[70]

See also

References

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