High-speed rail hits bump in Ayutthaya
UN tells developer to mind heritage site
The Transport Ministry wants to expedite the high-speed rail project from Bangkok to Nong Khai and is trying to overcome an issue over the construction of a new train station in Ayutthaya.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob on Friday chaired a meeting of a committee managing the development of the Thai-Sino rail project.
The meeting agreed to ensure that the construction of the train station in Ayutthaya proceeded in line with recommendations from the National Committee on the World Heritage Convention.
It also approved the establishment of three subcommittees: one to accelerate the implementation of the high-speed rail project, another to develop cross-border connectivity and rail transport from Nong Khai to Vientiane in Laos, and a third to improve other transport systems to support the high-speed project.
The National Committee on the World Heritage Convention last December ordered the State Railway of Thailand to ease the impact of the project on historical sites in Ayutthaya while ensuring it remained easy for passengers to use.
According to the Fine Arts Department, an inter-agency working team will be formed to design the new Ayutthaya train station so it reflects the historical value of the one it replaces.
Pratheep Pengtako, the department's director-general, said that although the existing station was not part of Ayutthaya's inner historical precinct declared as a Unesco World Heritage Site, it held deep historical significance, having been built during the reign of King Rama V when railways were first introduced to the country. Planners say the high-speed rail link from Bangkok to Nong Khai via Nakhon Ratchasima requires a new station to be built in Ayutthaya to meet commercial development needs.
Mr Pratheep said the primary concern was that if the new train station was built in a way that did not reflect the design of the present one, it might compromise cultural integrity and adversely affect the city's World Heritage status.
He said Unesco had written to his department expressing concern about the station and asked that measures be devised to cushion the impact of high-speed rail on the World Heritage Site.
The 253-kilometre first phase of the project from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, which is estimated to cost 179.41 billion baht, is progressing well, said deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul. It will have six stations: Bangkok (Bang Sue), Don Muang, Ayutthaya, Saraburi, Pak Chong and Nakhon Ratchasima.