Southern Economic Corridor on agenda
The government looks set to introduce the Southern Economic Corridor development scheme, which includes a high-speed rail network, a double-track rail system, road construction and an upgrade of Ranong port.
The development plan is scheduled to go before the mobile cabinet's Aug 20-21 meeting in Chumphon.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the National Economic and Social Development Board is conducting a development plan for the Southern Economic Corridor.
Mr Somkid said the government aims to develop the Southern Economic Corridor to spur economic growth in the southern provinces, which have room for investment in local raw materials such as rubber and palm to create value-added products.
He said the economic climate in the southern region is relatively tepid because of lower rubber prices in recent years.
"The government is hopeful that the new infrastructure projects will create new economic areas in the region," Mr Somkid said. "The Bangkok-Hua Hin high-speed rail route will be expanded to Chumphon and Surat Thani, and the Transport Ministry has already started a feasibility study and the environmental impact assessment for the expansion project."
The government is scheduled to open the bidding for Bangkok-Hua Hin-Chumphon-Surat Thani this year.
The 211km Bangkok-Hua Hin route, worth 95 billion baht, has already undergone a complete feasibility study.
Mr Somkid said the government intends to develop a high-speed rail scheme that can link the northern high-speed rail route, the Eastern Economic Corridor, Thai Riviera projects and other southern areas.
A double-track rail network from Chumphon to Ranong will be also developed in line with a highway upgrade.
According to Mr Somkid, Chumphon could be developed as a centre for fruit distribution, while Surat Thani is envisioned as a bioeconomy centre.
Ranong port will be upgraded to facilitate shipments to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Mr Somkid said the Southern Economic Corridor will be developed to link the "Royal Coast" tourism cluster, which includes Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon and Ranong.
The cabinet on March 6 approved in principle the Royal Coast project around Hua Hin, where there is a royal residential retreat, as part of the government's 20-year development plan running until 2020.
The government plans for a high-end tourism campaign in the western coastal provinces, which it hopes will boost income in the region. The cabinet also approved in principle 45 projects with 170 million baht from the fiscal 2019 budget, all in support of community tourism.