Chadchart firm on Hua Hin route


Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt insists the planned Bangkok-Hua Hin high-speed train route will go ahead despite warnings it is not worth the investment cost.

“The Hua Hin route is the only way connecting the Thai-Malaysian border, at Padang Besar in Songkhla province,” he said yesterday on the sidelines of the Home Buyers’ Expo/NPA Grand Sale/Home Loan 2013 at in Bangkok’s Queen Sirikit National Convention Center.

“We remain firm on the development plan.”

The Yingluck Shinawatra government wants to build four high-speed train lines from Bangkok to upcountry as part of a 2-trillion-baht infrastructure investment.

The high-speed projects would be built in phases, with only the Rayong-Pattaya route likely to be finished in one stage.

Construction of the first phase of the four routes _ Bangkok-Phitsanulok, Bangkok-Hua Hin, Bangkok-Rayong and Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima _ would be completed by 2019. The Bangkok-Hua Hin route would stretch 225 kilometres at a cost of 82 billion baht.

A study by a consultancy hired by the government showed the Bangkok-Hua Hin route would see an economic rate of return (ERR) of 10.7%, less than the 12% benchmark set by the Transport Ministry.

But Mr Chadchart said the route would see a higher ERR if the development extended to Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon or farther.

Chula Sukmanop, director-general of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, said if the route is not worth the investment, the ministry should invest in other routes instead.

In June, MR Pridiyathorn Devakula called on the government to cancel its planned development of four high-speed rail routes, arguing they would not be worth the cost.

The former Bank of Thailand governor referred to a study that said some routes would need as many as 41,000 passengers a day or 15 million a year to break even, totals that exceed domestic airline passengers at the moment. High-speed train fares would likely exceed those of low-cost airlines even though it is faster to fly.

Regardless, a draft authorising borrowing to fund the 2-trillion-baht scheme is set for parliamentary deliberation.

Picture: Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt is adamant the planned Bangkok- Hua Hin high-speed train route remains on target despite dire warnings about its investment cost. SOMCHAI POOMLA

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