Thai-Japanese rail plans take shape

Initial construction costs for the Thai-Japanese high-speed railway's first phase from Bangkok to Phitsanulok have been estimated at 270 billion baht, says Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

Mr Arkhom said plans for the phase are due to be submitted to the cabinet for consideration this year.

The 380-kilometre route from Bangkok to Phitsanulok is part of a project between Thailand and Japan to construct a high-speed railway connecting the capital to Chiang Mai.

The Bangkok-Phitsanulok route was discussed at a meeting between the Ministry of Transport and representatives from Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) yesterday.

The second phase, connecting Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai, was not discussed at the meeting, said Mr Arkhom.

He said the initial 270-billion-baht cost was based on an estimate related to Japan's suggested project investment strategy.

"The type of investment they have suggested involves very high initial investment, and low overall maintenance costs," said Mr Arkhom. He added that the figure is subject to change once the Japanese ministry submits a research report on the project to the Thai Transport Ministry this year.

After the report is submitted, the design phase for the Bangkok-Phitsanulok stretch will begin next year, said Mr Arkhom.

He said that the main stations along the route will include Don Muang, Lop Buri, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit, Phitsanulok and Sukhothai.

"If everything goes according to plan, construction will begin in 2019," said Mr Arkhom. "Construction could take four to five years, with the service rolling out in 2022."

The minster said MLIT reported that the first phase of the project could help the economies of local communities grow by 14.7%.

He said MLIT has been asked to specifically spell out how the railway will help develop areas surrounding the train stations, especially in metropolitan areas.

Mr Arkhom said that while the project is a government to government collaborative effort, Thailand and Japan are still in discussions on whether private companies will be eligible to invest in the project.

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