Thailand high speed rail construction starts

The construction of the first section of the Thailand-China railway line officially began on Thursday with a ground-breaking ceremony in the northeastern Thai province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

The 253-km first phase of the railway links Bangkok with Nakhon Ratchasima province. China is responsible for design of the railway, supervision of construction and manufacturing of trains and signal systems, among others.

Once completed, the railway with a maximum speed of 250 km per hour will be the first high-speed railway in Thailand.

The first phase of the project, a 250-km (155 mile) high-speed rail line linking Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, is expected to be operational in 2021.

Completion of the first section is expected to take six months.

The full line is expected to stretch 873 km (542 miles), linking Thailand and Laos at the northeastern Thai city of Nong Khai.

The second phase of the project will link Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai on the border with Laos, which connects with the China-Laos railway in an artery railway linking Thailand, Laos and China.

Huang, an expert who has been paying close attention to the project, looks forward to the operation of the railway. He envisions the boom of Thailand’s economy in its northeastern part under the project.

Northeastern Thailand, a region with one-third of Thailand’s land area that contains about one-third of the country’s population, contributes only one 10th of the Kingdom’s GDP, said Huang, adding that the poor transportation results in its sluggish development.

According to Huang, there are about 4,507 km of meter gauge lines in Thailand, of which 90 percent is still single track. There are also problems with old equipment, poor management and maintenance, and low speed.

As a result, the annual volume of railway freight is less than a 10th of the total transport volume. It is estimated that the cost of land transport is six times that of rail. Since rail does not offer an alternative, the logistics costs in Thailand are higher than those in other countries.

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