High-speed rail in Thailand

Thailand high-speed rail
CRRC Changchun CR400AF EMU proposed for Northeastern high-speed rail line passenger services.
Overview
TypeHigh-speed rail
StatusVaries by segment
LocaleThailand
Operation
Operator(s)State Railway of Thailand
Technical
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Operating speed250 km/h (Chinese-built); 300+ km/h (Japanese-built)

History

In October 2010, the Thai Parliament approved initial proposals for a high-speed rail (HSR) network. Five lines capable of handling 250 km/h speeds would radiate from Bangkok.[1]

In March 2013, the transport minister revealed that only one company would be selected to run all high-speed train routes, scheduled to be operational between 2018 and 2019.[2] The first 86 km section from Bang Sue to Ayuthaya was planned to be tendered in late-2013. However, a seven month-long political crisis involving the dissolution of parliament and an annulled February 2014 election culminated in a military coup in May 2014. In July 2014 the new military junta deferred all HSR plans until a civilian government is installed.

Following the military coup of May 2014 and his elevation to the office of prime minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha proposed connecting Bangkok to two popular resort cities, Pattaya and Hua Hin, by high-speed rail. The Transport Ministry's Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning had earlier conducted studies on both routes. They assumed that, for the Bangkok-Pattaya line, trains would run through Chachoengsao, Chonburi, and Pattaya, terminating in Rayong, a distance of 194 km. Construction costs were estimated at 152 billion baht with an economic internal rate of return (EIRR) of 13%. Construction would take about 54 months. The route to Hua Hin would be 209 km in length with an investment cost of about 98 billion baht and EIRR of 8.1%. The office concluded that these routes would be of little interest to private investors due to the high investment required coupled with a low rate of return.[3] Four HSR lines were included in fiscal year 2017 plans.[4]

In September 2017 the government outlined the building of the HSR network in three stages:

Stage 1 (2017–2021)

  • Eastern HSR to U-Tapao Airport
  • Northeastern HSR to Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Southern HSR to Hua Hin

Stage 2 (2022–2026)

  • Northern HSR to Phitsanulok
  • Northeastern HSR extension to Nong Khai

Stage 3 (2027–2036)

  • Northern HSR extension to Chiang Mai
  • Southern HSR extension to Surat Thani
  • Southern HSR extension to Padang Besar
  • Eastern HSR extension to Trat

Proposed high-speed routes

High-Speed Corridor Route Speed (km/h) Length (km) Network Cost Projected Operation Status
Eastern HSR (3 Airports Link)[5] Don Mueang, Bang Sue, Makkasan, Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chachoengsao, Chonburi, Si Racha, Pattaya, U-Tapao 250 rural; 160 urban 220 PPP Net Cost 224bn baht 2024 Preparation
Northeastern HSR Phase 1 Bangkok–Ayutthaya–SaraburiNakhon Ratchasima 250 250 China US$821 million 2023[6] Under construction
Northeastern HSR Phase 2 Nakhon Ratchasima–Khon KaenUdon ThaniNong KhaiVientiane 250 380 China US$1.25bn 2025 Planned
Northern HSR Phase 1 BangkokAyutthayaPhitsanulok[7] 300+ 384 Japan US$8.67 billion 2025 (Forecast) Planned
Northern HSR Phase 2 Phitsanulok–SukhothaiLampangChiang Mai[7] 300+ 285 Japan US$13bn 2027-2030 Planning stage
Southern HSR Bangkok–Nakhon PathomRatchaburiPhetchaburiHua Hin (-Hat Yai-Padang Besar) 250 211 PPP Net Cost 2022 EIA, Proposed (Hua Hin-Padang Besar)

Northeastern HSR: Bangkok - Nakhon Ratchasima - Nong Khai (Sino-Thai railway project)

In November 2014, Thailand and China signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to construct the Thai portion of the transnational railway running from Kunming, China to the Gulf of Thailand. In November 2015, both parties agreed to a division of labour. Under the framework, a joint venture would be set up to run the project. China would conduct feasibility studies, design the system, construct tunnels and bridges, and lay track. Thailand would conduct social and environmental impact studies, expropriate land for construction, handle general civil engineering and power supply, and supply construction materials.

Once built, China would operate and maintain the system for the first three years of operation. Between the third and the seventh years, both countries would share responsibility. Later Thailand would take on responsibility with China as adviser. China would train Thai personnel to operate and maintain the system.

Dual standard-gauge tracks would be laid throughout the project. In Thailand, two routes would diverge at a junction in Kaeng Khoi District in Saraburi Province. One to connect Bangkok to Kaeng Khoi. The other route to connect Kaeng Khoi with Map Ta Phut of Rayong Province. From Kaeng Khoi tracks would lead north to Nakhon Ratchasima and on to Nong Khai Province. Construction would be divided into four sections: Bangkok-Kaeng Khoi, Map Ta Phut-Kaeng Khoi, Kaeng Khoi-Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai.

Construction of Thailand's 873-kilometre-long portion of the railway system started in December 2017 [8][9] and the Phase 1 line is due to open in 2023.[10] It will connect to a 417 km line from Vientiane to the northern Lao border and a 520 km line from the Lao border to Kunming.[11]

Eastern HSR: Bangkok to U-Tapao Airport

A HSR line to the eastern seaboard was first proposed in 1996 but there was no progress for over a decade. In 2009, the government requested the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) to create a plan for new HSR network in Thailand that included an eastern HSR line to Rayong. The route was finalised before the 2011 election with the promise to begin construction the next year if the government was re-elected, but they lost the election. After the 2011 election, the new government reviewed all HSR plans and the SRT stated that the line would be tendered in early-2014.[12] After the May 2014 coup there were further delays while the military government reviewed all HSR lines, initially deferring all projects. In early-2016, the government agreed to proceed with the eastern HSR route and suggested that it could be extended to Don Mueang International Airport beyond the terminus at Bang Sue Intercity Terminal thus providing a link with three airports.[13] Extending the line would provide a link between Don Mueang Airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, and U-Tapao International Airport in Ban Chang District.

During 2017, OTP and the Ministry of Transport in consultation with the SRT agreed that by extending the line to terminate at Don Mueang it would effectively include the long delayed extension of the Airport Rail Link (Bangkok) from Makkasan Station to Don Mueang Airport as part of the project. The Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EEC Office) in October 2017 finalised previous OTP plans to build the 10 station Eastern HSR line linking Don Mueang airport, Bang Sue, Makkasan, Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chonburi, Si Racha, Pattaya, U-Tapao Airport, and Rayong. In early-2018, the section to Rayong was excluded due to environmental and safety concerns and it was decided that the line would terminate at U-Tapao Airport.[14]

The SRT stated that the first tenders for the Eastern HSR line are expected to be tendered by May 2018 with a four month auction period before the contract is awarded.[15] The cost of the project was estimated to be over 200 billion baht, of which the Thai Government would fund 123 billion baht and the private sector estimated to contribute 90 billion baht.[16][17]

Two rival consortia vied for the airport link contract.[18] The Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group-led consortium consisting of Italian-Thai Development, China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, CH. Karnchang, and Bangkok Expressway and Metro, won the project with a 224 billion baht bid in December 2018. Their winning bid is valid until 8 November 2019. Until 16 October 2019, the consortium had refused to sign the contract, citing land expropriation and eviction problems and the consortium's request that the government share the risk in the project.[19] Negotiations were further complicated by the resignation of the entire board of the State Railway.[20] On 16 October 2019, news reports announced that the CP consortium intends to sign the rail deal on 25 October.[21] Tanit Sorat, Vice-Chairman of the Employers' Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry, said that the contract signing delays are "...unlikely to affect the project because the government will carry out the project smoothly."[19] The project was eventually approved in October 2019 as a public private partnership between the Thai government and Charoen Pokphand/China Railway Construction Corporation. The assets will revert to state ownership after 50 years.[22]

Northern HSR: Bangkok - Phitsanulok - Chiang Mai (Japanese-Thai project)

Japan would provide Shinkansen technology for a high-speed rail link between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai. Phase 1 would connect Bangkok to Phitsanulok. It is estimated to cost 280 billion baht. Seven stations are planned for this segment: Bang Sue, Don Mueang, Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit, and Phitsanulok. To reduce costs, Thai authorities have proposed reducing the number of stations, but the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has rejected this suggestion on the grounds that it defeats the original purpose of the project.[23] This portion of the route was scheduled to be submitted to the Thai cabinet for financial approval in August 2018.[23]

After an initial cooperation agreement was signed in 2015, the Thai government formally requested the technical and financial assistance of the Japanese government in late-2016 for the building of the Northern HSR line to Chiang Mai.[24] The Japanese completed a feasibility study which estimated that the project will cost 420 billion baht to build.[25]

A feasibility study by JICA in mid-2018 reported that the train as planned would run at a loss. JICA's study projects only 10,000 passengers per day on the route, as opposed to the 30,000 per day forecasted in the original planning proposals. To be profitable from ticket sales would require 50,000 fares per day.[23]

The Thai government announced in September 2019 that it may cancel Bangkok-Chiang Mai high-speed rail project after private investors declined to invest. The cost of the 670 kilometre line is estimated to be 400 billion baht. Japan has turned down the project as a bad investment due to low passenger projections. [26]

Southern HSR: Bangkok-Hua Hin

This line would link Bangkok with Hua Hin. It would be 211 km long and estimated costs in 2016 were 152 billion baht.[27]

See also

References

  1. "Thailand to negotiate with China on high-speed proposal". International Railway Journal. 2010-10-30. Archived from the original on 2010-11-01. Retrieved 2010-10-30.
  2. "Transport Minister: One firm will run all high-speed train routes". Thai Financial Post. 2013-03-21. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02.
  3. "Difficulty in implementing high-speed train to resort provinces". Mass Communication Organization of Thailand (MCOT). 2015-02-14. Archived from the original on 2015-02-15. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  4. "4 high speed rail projects in FY 2017 investment plan". The Nation. 1 November 2016.
  5. Apisitniran, Lamonphet (20 March 2018). "Pitch set for airport rail link". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  6. "Thailand's high-speed railway will carry first passengers in 2023". The Thaiger. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  7. Hongtong, Thodsapol (16 December 2017). "Bullet train project set to cost B420bn". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  8. Wang, Brian (25 December 2017). "Thailand high speed rail construction starts". Next Big Future. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  9. "Construction of Thai-Chinese railway begins". Bangkok Post. 21 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  10. "Thailand's high-speed railway will carry first passengers in 2023". The Thaiger. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  11. Jikkham, Patsara (2015-11-17). "Sino-Thai railway responsibilities set". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  12. "Rayong added to high-speed rail link". Bangkok Post. 13 May 2013.
  13. "Military government set to link 3 airports-Work on 'super link' is tipped to begin in September". Bangkok Post. 25 January 2016.
  14. "EEC high-speed railway to steer clear of Rayong on safety fears". Bangkok Post. 14 February 2018.
  15. "Auction for train contracts in April". Bangkok Post. 28 February 2018.
  16. "New govt 'won't halt airport fast rail plan'". Bangkok Post. 9 March 2018.
  17. Apisitniran, Lamonphet (20 March 2018). "Pitch set for airport rail link". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  18. "CP, BTS groups set to bid for airport link high-speed railway". The Nation. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  19. Apisitiran, Lamonphet; Theparat, Chatrudee (14 October 2019). "Holding up the train". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  20. "SRT board members in mass resignation". The Nation. 30 September 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  21. Leesa-Nguansuk, Suchit; Hongtong, Thodsapol (16 October 2019). "CP set to ink airport link deal". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  22. "Thailand gives green light for US$7.4 billion high-speed rail link between Bangkok and Pattaya". SCMP. 24 October 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  23. Hongtong, Thodsapol (25 July 2018). "Losses predicted for high-speed railway". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  24. "Government to ask Japan for rail project support". Bangkok Post. 5 December 2016.
  25. "Bullet train project set to cost B420bn". Bangkok Post. 16 December 2017.
  26. Hongtong, Thodsapol (27 September 2019). "Govt mulls end of fast train plan". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  27. "Hua Hin High-speed Rail Put on Fast Track". Hua Hin Today. 31 August 2016. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
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