Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in just 77 minutes

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A youngster checks out a model of the proposed Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima railway, with the final design and construction details to be settled soon.

Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in just 77 minutes

High-speed train to cut commutes from 2021

Commuters and other passengers will be able to travel from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in 1 hour and 17 minutes using the Thai-Chinese high-speed train in four years’ time, with one-way fares costing 535 baht, the government said Tuesday.

The rail project, which has courted controversy for its use of Chinese engineers among other issues, will cover the roughly 260-kilometre route at a maximum speed of 250 km/h starting in 2021. At present, traveling the same distance using a provincial bus takes 4-5 hours.

The cabinet was shown full details of the 179-billion-baht project, which is being operated by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). After a period of consideration it decided to approve construction.

Six trains will cover the route initially, each accommodating about 600 passengers, Kobsak Pootrakool, vice-minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, said after the meeting. It is expected to handle 5,300 passengers a day, or one-quarter of all commuters who currently use public transport to travel this route.

Mr Kobsak said passengers will be charged a flat fee of 80 baht plus 1.8 baht per km. This makes the price of a ticket to Saraburi 278 baht, or 393 baht from Bangkok to Pak Chong, and 535 baht from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.

There will be six stations, namely, Bang Sue, Don Muang, Ayutthaya, Saraburi, Pak Chong and Nakhon Ratchasima.

A total of 2,815 rai needs to be expropriated from various districts, including Bang Sue and Don Muang in Bangkok, parts of Ayutthaya and Saraburi, and Nakhon Ratchasima’s Pak Chong district, Mr Kobsak said.

Projecting ahead, he said up to 23 trains will be running at 35-minute intervals from the year 2051, when the route is expected to accommodate 26,800 passengers a day.

Mr Kobsak said the project will be 100% government funded.

Of the total budget, 2.6 billion baht will be invested this year, 43 billion baht next year, 62.2 billion baht in 2019, 59.7 billion baht in 2020 and 12 billion baht in 2021, according to the Transport Ministry.

Construction work will account for 75% of the project’s value, with the remainder to be spent on the train system, Mr Kobsak said.

The project’s expected economic internal rate of return (EIRR) is 8.56%, but this will grow to 11.68% when the results of land and town development along the route are factored in, he said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted the project was not showing favouritism to China but was necessary to forge rail links with a neighbouring country.

The project is part of a larger plan to link the Map Ta Phut industrial zone in the coastal province of Rayong to the northeastern province of Nong Khai, which borders Laos. Laos, like Myanmar and Vietnam, share land borders with China.

Mr Kobsak said the railway will help Thailand become a transport hub in Asean and link up with China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

The government will sign three contracts with China to oversee construction, design and the electric system of the project, he said.


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