Train to Chiang Rai looks likely

Bids are likely to be called early next year on a long-delayed project to build double-rail tracks linking Phrae and Chiang Rai provinces.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is confident the cabinet will approve construction of the 325-kilometre line, which has been shelved for 53 years.

The railway would directly link the station in Phrae’s Den Chai district to Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district on the Laos border.

Experts are conducting environmental impact studies on the project before forwarding their findings to the National Environment Board for consideration.

“The board is expected to consider it over the next two months” before submitting the plan to the the cabinet for a final decision, SRT board chairman Soithip Trisuddhi said.

If there are no obstacles, the SRT will call bidding for the project, expected to cost around 60 billion baht, early next year, Ms Soithip, who is also deputy permanent secretary for transport, said.

Construction of the double rail line would take four years, she added.

The Den Chai-Chiang Rai-Chiang Khong line is one of two SRT projects that has been subject to lengthy delays due to financial constraints.

The other is the 42-billion-baht northeastern line, which has been delayed for 19 years.

The project, covering 347km, would link six northeastern provinces of Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Roi Et, Yasothon, Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom.

Previous governments have rejected repeated SRT requests for funds to build that line.

But Ms Soithip said the SRT is confident the government’s planned two-trillion-baht national infrastructure overhaul “gives us a good opportunity” to revive the northeastern railway project.

The SRT has hired a consultancy firm to conduct a feasibility study and an environmental impact assessment on the project. It is scheduled be completed in 15 months and the bidding process could begin in 2015.

Construction would take four years, financed under the two-trillion-baht borrowing bill now pending House approval, SRT governor Prapat Chongsanguan said.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/359094/srt-to-build-train-to-chiang-rai