High hopes for 'land bridge' project
Govt says port will be as busy as Hong Kong
The Transport Ministry said the proposed land bridge megaproject, which will connect Chumphon on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Thailand to Ranong on the Andaman Sea, will become a major transit port, with a capacity rivalling Hong Kong.
After a meeting on the Southern Economic Corridor project, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the land bridge, which will allow maritime traffic to bypass the congested waters off Singapore, will be able to handle some 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of cargo per year.
This is equivalent to the capacity of the port in Hong Kong, which is the world's eighth busiest port, the minister said.
He urged all stakeholders to come up with a design that would bring transit time down significantly below other routes in the region, to increase the land bridge's chances of becoming the preferred route between the Indian and Pacific oceans.
To promote the land bridge as a transit hub and attract international investment, the ministry will develop the area's supporting infrastructure.
The land bridge will be equipped with an automated container terminal to increase container load efficiency, which will ultimately result in a smoother journey from coast to coast, the minister said.
Mr Saksayam said the government will keep the public informed on the economic, social and environmental impact of the project.
The land bridge was proposed after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government's flagship project, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), won't be enough to drive Thailand's economy.
The government is actively looking to invest in a new megaproject, which is in line with the 20-year national strategy, he said.
The EEC, he said, only began five years ago and construction will take time to finish.
According to the government's proposal, the land bridge will stretch some 100 kilometres between the the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman. It will consist of a road and railway that will link up sea ports on both coasts.
The project is similar to plans for the development of special economic areas in other regions.
The government considers these a key mechanism to drive its new economic ambitions forward, said deputy secretary-general to the Prime Minister, Anucha Burapachaisri.