A new four lane expressway which will link Nakhon Pathom with Tha Yang in Phetchaburi is set to improve travel between the region and central Thailand.
The expressway, officially titled the Intercity Highway No. 8, Nakhon Pathom – Cha-am route, also known as the M8, will stretch 109 kilometers and should help to reduce the time it takes to drive to and from Hua Hin, Cha Am, Phetchaburi and Nakhon Pathom and in to Bangkok.
According to the Ministry of Transport, the M8 will connect with the Intercity Highway – Bang Yai – Kanchanaburi (M81) at the Nakhon Chai Sri Interchange in Nakhon Pathom, ending on the National Highway No. 4 at the 188 kilometre marker in Tha Yang.
The M8 expressway will be a combination of roads and elevated structures with bridges being used to cross sections of existing local roads, rivers and areas which consist of soft soil. This will help to mitigate the impact of land expropriation, the Ministry of Transport says.
The route will include a total of nine toll gates at Nakhon Chai Sri, Chinda Market, Bang Phae, Ratchaburi, Wat Plang, two at Pak Tho, Khao Yoi and Tha Yang.
Motorists will be charged a toll fee based on the actual distance they have traveled.
The Department of Highways (DOH) will be responsible for collecting the fees both manually and automatically. The tolls along the M8 will also be linked to the M-Flow system – Thailand’s digitised toll-gate payment system that was launched in November 2020.
The system uses artificial intelligence (AI) and video toll cameras to speed up the collection of toll fees. The Department of Highways says the system offers 99 percent accuracy in matching license plates with their owners.
Drivers who are registered to the system don’t even need to slow down, let alone stop, in order for the toll fee to be collected.
They just drive past the toll and the fee is taken from their account automatically.
The DOH says the system can handle up 2,500 vehicles per lane per hour and improves traffic flow by up to five times compared to the toll collection systems used previously.
The expressway will also feature a series of five rest areas and roadside facilities, including a rest stop in Bang Phae in Ratchaburi and Khao Yoi in Phetchaburi, two service areas in Nakhon Chai Sri in Nakhon Pathom and Ban Lat in Phetchaburi and a service centre in Ratchaburi.
In terms of traffic management and road safety, a computer aided system traffic control system will help to manage traffic flow along the route.
Officials say the system will help to reduce the likelihood of accidents for road users while also making traffic management more convenient and faster.
The system consists of a central control room that links commands to various traffic monitoring equipment along the route
Traffic conditions will be monitored using cameras and video surveillance, while Variable Message Signs (VMS) will be able to display information, recommendations and warnings to drivers in real time.
A real time vehicle counting system will be used to gather the very latest traffic conditions.
The project to construct the M8 expressway is expected to begin in 2024, with the route opening to motorists in 2027.
Air and rail infrastructure improvements
The M8 expressway is the latest infrastructure project which will improve transportation links into and out of the region.
Currently over 98 percent of all visitors to Cha Am and Hua Hin arrive by car.
However, with the planned improvements of the region’s airport and train network, that could be about to change.
The new Southern Train Line which connects Nakhon Pathom with Chumphon, a distance of 421 kilometers, will dramatically improve rail transport between Bangkok and the south of Thailand.
According to the Department of Rail Transport (DRT), the entire project is now more than 92 percent complete, while the 84 kilometre stretch of the rail line that connects Hua Hin with Prachuap Khiri Khan is now close to completion.
The new dual track rail line will be fully open in 2023, the DRT said, once the signaling system has been installed.
In addition, the ongoing upgrade to Hua Hin Airport will see it transformed into a truly international travel hub.
Flights will be available to and from destinations within a five to a six-hour radius, such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India, and the Middle East.
An increase in flights means that one million passengers will arrive at Hua Hin Airport within three years.