The cabinet has approved the proposed construction of the first section of the Thai-Chinese high-speed train project with budget of 179 billion THB. The project will be 100% government funded.
Kobsak Futrakul, a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, said the State Railway of Thailand will build the first section between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima with construction to begin in September scheduled to be completed in four years, he said. “Thailand will be responsible for the construction, while China will be responsible for design,” said Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith. Passengers will be able to travel from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in 1 hour and 17 minutes with one-way fares costing 535 THB, the government said. Trains will cover the roughly 260-kilometre route at a maximum speed of 250 km/h. Traveling the same distance using a provincial bus takes 4-5 hours.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has used orders under Article 44 of the interim charter to grant multiple legal exemptions to the rail project, which has been delayed for almost two years. A transitory provision in the new Constitution assigns this authority to the head of the National Council for Peace and Order.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Chinese engineers and architects will be allowed to work in Thailand for the project. Sansern said Chinese personnel in this field are regarded as highly experienced personnel with a record of building more than 20,000 kilometres of high-speed rail tracks in China. The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is to hire a Chinese state enterprise to supervise the construction, oversee the design of the railway infrastructure as well as rail and electrical systems. The firm must be certified by China’s National Development and Reform Commission. Thai engineering and architect groups have voiced opposition to the plan to exempt Chinese personnel to work here without having to qualify for their work permits
Technology transfer will be via a joint committee comprising representatives from all relevant government agencies, including occupational councils, educational institutions, and research centres. The aim is to develop the country’s engineering and architectural occupations. Mr Sansern said that since the rail project is a specific government-to-government deal, it would be exempt from certain requirements in the state procurement law on bidding. A standard pricing method will be used instead of the median price for procurement to facilitate the signing of contracts with Chinese counterparts later this year.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpitayapaisit said it was not possible to sign contracts with China under existing regulations. Arkhom said deputy premier Wissanu Krea-ngam would prepare details of the legal exemptions to facilitate the project. And as parts of the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route will go through forest reserve areas, special permission will be given so that the project can go ahead. Overall, the Chinese aim to connect the Bangkok-Nong Khai route with Laos and southern China. The rail lines could also be extended to other Asean countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore, representing a modern Chinese version of the ancient Silk Road. The rail deal is one of the biggest foreign investment projects in Thailand in years and is part of Beijing’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ infrastructure drive.
Upgraded carriages now operate through the Hua Hin Railway Station Thirteen companies have expressed an interest in construction of the Hua HinPrachuap Khiri Khan double-track railway. The State Railway of Thailand announced in April the process for the bidding of the 84 km railway with the median price of 7.3 billion THB. Anon Luangboriboon, acting governor of the State Railway of Thailand, said the SRT will soon announce the list of approved bidders and the successful bidder. The project will add another metre gauge track to run parallel to the existing one, creating a double-track system with separate tracks for incoming and outgoing traffic. It will increase the capacity, reduce travel time and save energy, the SRT said.