The State Railway of Thailand has postponed the reopening of the northern line to Chiang Mai until Dec 1 as rains and a manpower shortage mean the Nov 1 deadline to complete repairs will be missed.
Rail workers replace decayed wooden sleepers with concrete ones on the northern railway line between Chiang Mai and Sila-art in Uttaradit. The repairs originally planned to end this month will last until the end of November. (File photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
SRT governor Prapas Chongsanguan said another month would be needed to finish work on the route from Sila Art station in Uttaradit to Chiang Mai.
The 300-kilometre northern sector has been closed since Sept 16 after the SRT faced the embarrassment of numerous accidents.
Since the start of the year there were 23 derailments on the northern route, including some involving express trains, compelling the SRT to suspend service while it replaced wooden sleepers with concrete ones, improved soil under the track and changed deteriorating rails.
Workers are having problems repairing the old tracks and the SRT is facing a shortage of labourers, Mr Prapas said on Friday.
Chiang Mai station will be deserted for another month as the SRT has pushed back the reopening of the northern track to Dec 1. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
One of the most difficult stretches involves the Khun Tan tunnel between Lampang and Lamphun, where water from heavy rains has seeped into the one-kilometre tunnel. This has created a domino effect leading to delays in other areas, he added.
Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt and the SRT board have been informed about the decision to postpone the resumption of service, he added.
While the rail line from Uttaradit to Chiang Mai has been closed, travellers have been using buses to get to the northern city.
Travellers who have reserved tickets on the northern line to Chiang Mai for the month of November can receive refunds or reschedule their rides to December.
Mr Prapas has promised to step down from his position if there are any more accidents after the track is improved.
The SRT originally had planned to repair the northern line step by step with no need to shut it down but it decided to suspend service completely after the frequent derailments.
The line from Sila-art to Chiang Mai is mostly mountainous and has four tunnels. Most accidents have taken place on the section between Phrae and Lampang.