CHIANGRAI TIMES – The Ministry of Transport hopes to set up a supervisory committee on high-speed train development led by Prime Minister Yingluck who will act as its chairperson.
She has promised to fast track decisions a declaration that might add an element of speed to a project that has almost ground to a halt.
The ministry vows that at least one high-speed train line will open before the current government’s terms ends in about three and a half years.
Based on country’s railway developments in the past that is an optimistic time-frame, one that critics will say is almost impossible to meet.
China and Japan are both interested in the first project but details of the investment, work plan and technical assistance involved have still be negotiated. Based on past rail projects the initial negotiations before any work begins on the line could take two years to complete. Also having two countries work on the projects could complicate matters.
Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan said a supervisory committee on a high-speed train development will be formed first.
Apart from the Prime Minister as its chairperson it will involve the Ministry of Transport director general as a secretary together with representatives from the State Railway of Thailand and the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning.
There will be five sub-committees on the following subjects: Drafting the framework of the country’s requirements; technical specifications and engineering; finance and investment; Added value projects and system operational management.
As for international partners, Japan has conducted a study, while China signed a Memorandum of Understanding and plans its own study in three months.
“The PM was very impressed with the efficiency of the high speed train system of the two countries, during her recent visit. Therefore she wants the project to speed up so it can be an important link at ASEAN level adding weight to Thailand’s gateway status to southwest China, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia and Singapore.”
There are four planned high-speed train routes: Bangkok- Phitsanulok-Chiang Mai, 745 km, worth Bt229 billion; Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai, 615 km, worth Bt201.45 billion; Bangkok-Pattaya-Rayong, 221 km, worth Bt72.27 billion (extension from the Airport Link line) and Bangkok-Hua Hin-Padang Besar, 982 km, worth Bt297.88 billion.
Deputy Transport Minister, Chatchart Sittipan, said most likely the first line would be go to the north or northeast. However, construction costs would be lower to the northeast as the route is straight and pretty flat (after a steep climb near Saraburi and Muak Lek up to the plateau and to the region’s gateway town of Nakhon Ratchashim).