SRT eyes October launch for Chira- Khon Kaen double-track route
NAKHON RATCHASIMA: The first section of a northeastern double-track railway expansion project from Nakhon Ratchasima to Khon Kaen could be open for public use by October, during test runs, State Railway of Thailand (SRT) officials say.
Stretching 187km from Thanon Chira Junction railway station in Nakhon Ratchasima to Khon Kaen railway station, the complete route will have 19 stations.
According to Wannop Paisalpong, the project’s director, nine of the stations — all of which are in Nakhon Ratchasima — could be open by October, during scheduled testing phases for the double-track railway system.
“Each of the nine stations is over 90% complete now, in terms of construction and renovations in the stations and placing new railways along the single-track areas, to establish a dual-track system for the route,” he said.
The entire route is scheduled to be open by February, Mr Wannop added.
The Chira-Khon Kaen route, valued at around 23.4 billion baht, is part of the SRT’s first phase of double-track development projects across the country.
The new double-track system will supposedly eliminate the need for trains going in different directions from having to share rails, which will ease railway traffic. They will use 1 metre rails, also known as metre-gauge rails.
The authority initially signed a construction contract for the Chira-Khon Kaen project in 2015. The hired contractor, a joint venture between Ch Karnchang Plc and Cho Thavee Plc, began work in Feb 2016.
To-date, the project is now 58% complete, according to SRT reports.
The route is set to have a further six stops throughout its journey. Mr Wannop said these stops will be used to support the transportation of goods, such as local produce and sugar, by offering loading and unloading points for businesses and farmers.
Out of the route’s 19 stops, two will be constructed as elevated railways.
Construction of new elevated railways and platforms at Khon Kaen station, which will replace the current, grounded ones, is currently about 70% complete, Mr Wannop said.
“Our studies, combined with strong, local opinion, have made the elevated railways a necessity since they would have cut through at least five roads around the area if they were at ground level,” he said.
SRT reports state the elevated railways and platforms in Khon Kaen will be 5.4km long. The station itself is set to have an area of around 15,000 sq m, which will reportedly make it the largest train station in the country’s northeastern region.
Officials from the joint venture’s consultant team said in Khon Kaen yesterday that the current, ground-level tracks would not be immediately dismantled. They are scheduled to be used for temporary transportation of train fuel, to ease unloading processes.
According to SRT reports, the ground rails will be taken apart when plans for the second phase of the Thai Chinese high-speed railway from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai materialise.
Still in its early planning stages, the route is currently preceded by its first phase, from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. Construction of embankments for its initial 3.5km phase is currently underway, supervised by the Department of Highways.
The second elevated segment of the Chira-Khon Kaen railway project located in the latter’s Ban Phai district is currently awaiting an environmental impact assessment.
Ban Phai’s new elevated railway will reportedly be around 2km long and will include an underpass along part of Mittraphap road located nearby the station.