CHIANGMAI – Thailand is planning to run Chinese-made high-speed railway systems designed to have time-saving, inexpensive trains for long-distance commuters shuttling between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai and between the capital and northeastern province of Nong Khai.
Thai Transport Minister Chatchat Sitthipan said the Thai government has decided to go ahead with the multi-billion dollar railway projects under which the so-called Hexie Hao or China Railway Highspeed train system will be used.
Construction of the initial stage of the railway project for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route is scheduled to begin by the middle or second half of next year. The railway project for both routes will be completed by 2015.
Feasibility studies for the train projects have been conducted and China has offered to transfer its railway technology to Thai engineers.
China’s Deputy Railway Minister Lu Chunfang has met with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to discuss the Sino-Thai railway cooperation project for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route estimated at US$10 billion and the Bangkok-Nong Khai route which costs US$6.6 billion.
Chatchat said commuters will spend only three and a half hours shuttling between Bangkok and Chiang Mai aboard the high-speed train, compared to a dozen hours currently consumed by a “rapid” train of the State Railway of Thailand.
“The high-speed train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai will run 250 to 300 kilometres per hour through terrains and tunnels in the mountains, particularly those in Uttaradit province, to save travelling time for daily commuters. That route will be shortened from 753 km to 680 km,” said Chatchat.
“The 615-km Bangkok-Nong Khai route will consume no more than three hours on a similar high-speed train,” he said.
A start-up stretch of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route has been designed to cover a 342-km distance between Bangkok and Pitsanuloak province, lying roughly halfway between the capital and the northern city.
Bang Sue train station in the capital will be upgraded to become a hub for the high-speed train systems.
The Chiang Mai railway may be connected with China’s southwest city of Kunming and the Nong Khai railway with a railway system in Lao’s capital Vientiane.
The Thai railway system will also be connected with those in Myanmar and Malaysia.