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Thailand Industry : Rail Development Plans

By on Jan 12, 2015 in Industrial

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Huang Bin, Head of the Chinese Department at Kasikorn Research Centre has recently presented some interesting research findings:

The country has abundant natural resources, relatively comprehensive infrastructure and an excellent business environment, which have long attracted a large number of foreign investors. With considerable economic development, Thailand has become the second-largest economy in Asean. The global economic landscape has undergone major changes in recent years, he said. Hit by the debt crisis, the proportion of worldwide trade and investment accounted for by Europe, the United States and other developed economies has continued to decline, he said. On the other hand, with the further development of Asian economic integration, Asian intra-regional trade, investment and tourism have witnessed accelerated growth, and this has enabled the continent to become one of the most dynamic regions in the world.

Thailand should grasp the opportunity of regional integration, further exert its advantages, and build itself up as Asean’s trade and investment centre, as well as its transportation and logistics hub.

The Thailand government plans to launch a new round of large-scale infrastructure. This includes upgrading, the weakest link, the railway system. The rail system was initially built more than 120 years ago, in the reign of King Rama V. Taking the Chao Phraya River as a boundary, the rail lines are 1.435-metre gauge track on the eastern side, and 1-metre gauge on the western side. Since the end of World War II, the overall length of Thai railways has increased by only 1,000 kilometres in 70 years.

In order to build itself into the Asean transportation hub, Thailand has to achieve all-round connectivity within the country and at the same time reduce logistics costs, lower transportation periods and make its logistics more efficient, said the researcher.

Previous governments have drawn up plans for high-speed train lines, but those who were against the plans said it was not necessary to have high-speed rail since Thailand was a small country, and also worried that the huge amount of investment would leave the national finances with a heavy burden for a long time to come, he said. Finally, after comprehensively listening to the opinions from different sides, the ruling National Council for Peace and Order formulated a national development strategy for transportation infrastructure in 2014-2022, with a total planned investment of Bt2.4 trillion.

The rail strategy can be divided into two parts. The first is six double-track 1-metre-gauge lines at a combined length of 887km, costing Bt127.5 billion and to be completed in 2020. The second comprises two new double-track lines.Such a major decision was not taken easily.

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