After a lot of deliberations, bullet trains are finally coming to Thailand. This opens a chance for Thailand to compete with other Asian economic giants such as China and Japan who have invested heavily on bullet trains. There are a lot of questions that come into mind when it comes to such ambitious projects.

Thailand Bullet Train Plans

The high-speed Thailand bullet train is expected to run through various destinations within Thailand and connect three of the major airports in Thailand. These airports include the Don Mueang International Airport, U-Tapao Airport and the Suvarnabhumi Airport.

It also connects six of Thailand provinces, which includes Prakan, Samut, Bangkok, Chonburi, Chachoengsao, and Rayong. Thailand bullet trains are expected to reach a maximum of 250km/h making their intended destinations easy to access. 

Thailand bullet train project has been divided into four major projects. These projects are as follows:

  • Eastern high-speed railway
  • Northeastern high-speed railway
  • Northern high-speed railway
  • Southern high-speed railway

Eastern High-speed Railway

This is the leading high-speed railway line project since it connects the three major airports stated above. The railway line aims to stretch for 220 km and connect Bangkok to the U-Tapao Airport located in eastern Thailand. The train route will run from Don Mueang to U Tapao. Initially, the route was expected to end at Rayong, but the part connecting to this place was exempted due to safety and environmental concerns. Therefore, it was terminated at U-Tapao. The line will contain ten stations along the route.

Financing

The Eastern High-speed railway was projected to cost 200 million baht (6.4milion US dollars). The government of Thailand is expected to fund about 123 million baht (4 million US dollars), while there will be private ownership worth 90 million baht (2.9 million US dollars). Since the project is considered as an exclusive partnership, China Railway Construction Corporation under Charoen Pokphand consortium will run the line for fifty years before reverting it to the Thai government.

Contractors

The first tender of this line was made in May 2018 and was given a four-month auction period before awarding the award to the winning bidder. Charoen Pokphand won a 224 million baht (78.4 million US dollars) bid for the contract back in 2018. The company consist of the China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, Bangkok Expressway and Metro and the Italian-Thai Development.

The consortium refused to put pen into paper the contract, indicating problems with eviction and land exploration and requested the government to share responsibility for the risk. The issue was further complicated with the State Railway’s board resignation. Eventually, the contract was signed in 19th October 2019, and the plan was announced as a public-private partnership between the government of Thailand and the consortium.

Benefits

The Eastern high-speed railway line is projected to have a carrying capacity of 147,000 passengers every day during its first year of operation. It is also estimated to reduce transportation between Bangkok and U- Tapao airport to 45 minutes of travel.

The project is also estimated to generate 16,000 jobs during its construction and contribute an estimated 652,152 baht (20,785 US dollars) to the Thai’s economy. It also aims in developing its surrounding locations and attract foreign investments as well.

Northeastern High-Speed Railway

This project is known as the Sino- Thai railway project. The program was revealed through an agreement between Thailand and China to build the part of the railway line between China and Thailand.

In November 2015, both China and Thailand agreed to divide labour between themselves. China was supposed to design the system, do practicability studies, construct tunnels and lay the tracks. On the other hand, Thailand was to expropriate the land needed for construction, handle and civil engineering, supply the construction materials and conduct an environmental, and social impact study.

After completing the construction, China is expected to handle and hold up the line within the first three years. Between the third year and seventh year, both China and Thailand will share obligation. Later on, Thailand will operate the lines under the advisement of China as they are trained on how to manage the line.

Operation

The northeastern high-speed railway line will be a dual standard-gauge line. Two routes are expected to separate at a junction located in the district of Kaeng Khoi. One of the routes will link Bangkok with Kaeng Khoi, while the other one will connect Khaeng Khoi to Map Ta Phut.

Construction

Construction of this line is divided into four sections that include:

  • The Bangkok – Khaen Khoi section
  • The Map Ta Phut – Kaeng Khoi section
  • The Khaeng Khoi – Nakhon Ratchasima section 
  • The Nakhon Ratchasima – Nong Khai section

The projected commenced in December 2017 and will take three years to complete the first phase that reaches up to Nakhon – Ratchasima. By February 2018, it was announced that the first contract of the first phase would be issued by May the same year. The second contract is expected to cover 11 Km and will run from Sikihio to Kut Chik.

Northern High-Speed Railaw Line

The Northern High-speed railway line was projected to connect Bangkok with Phitsanulok and Chiang Mai. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency was expected to cooperate with the government of Thailand to handle this project. After the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) conducted a feasibility survey on the project, it estimated that it would cost about 420 million baht (13.5 million US dollars) to complete it.

Unfortunately, after a further feasibility study, JICA realized that the project could not sustain itself in the future since they projected that it could only manage to attract 10,000 passengers every day as compared to the 30,000 per day projection. For the project to be gainful, it was projected to have a ticket sale of 50,000 fares every day, which seems hard to achieve. Therefore, the program was cancelled by the government in September 2019, after investors failed to invest.

Southern High-speed Railway

Nothing much is considered about this railway line that is intended to connect Bangkok to Hua Hin. However, it will cover a stretch of 211 Km and is estimated to cost about 152 million baht (5 Million US dollars).

Conclusion

Of course, this project will spur the Thailand economy by bringing about ten to twenty million Chinese tourists to Thailand every year. However, there are a couple of realities that should be considered such as the projected ticket price compared with the average wages in Thailand and the number of 3,000 homes that will be demolished to accommodate this ambitious project. Otherwise, if it is carefully implemented, Thailand will surely boast of making remarkable steps in competing with renowned Asian economies such as China, Japan and South Korea.