High-speed train bids to start in 2013
The government plans to open international bidding early next year on the first phase of the high-speed rail project.
The 400-billion-baht first phase is scheduled to be completed in 2018.
The high-speed train system will largely run alongside existing lines.
They are Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima on the Bangkok-Nong Khai line; Bangkok-Hua Hin on the Bangkok-Padang Besar line; Bangkok-Phitsanulok-Chiang Mai; and Bangkok-Pattaya-Rayong on an extension line from Suvarnabhumi airport.
Cost of the first phase is estimated at 400 billion baht for a system that can handle speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour.
Passengers will travel 3.44 hours on the 745-km of Bangkok-Chiang Mai route, 1.35 hours on the 256-km Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route, 1.09 hours on the 225-km Bangkok-Hua Hin route and one hour on the 220-km Bangkok-Rayong route.
Construction will be along existing routes, while the governors of provinces along the way must submit reasons for having a station in their province.
The international bidding will be held early next year after completion of environmental and health impact assessments.
Pansak Vinyaratn, chairman of the advisory board to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, said the government is negotiating with bidders from South Korea, Japan, China and France.
The high-speed train will supply other Asean members and southern China with goods such as light parts, high-tech parts, seafood, fresh-cut flowers, vegetables and fruits.
The government anticipates that goods shipment by rail will increase to 80% of the total in six years from only 2% now.
This will reduce logistics costs by 35% or 400 billion baht a year on lower petrol consumption.
As well, warehouse costs and increased management efficiency will bring the total annual saving to 720 billion baht.
Currently, 17-35% of fresh goods turn rotten in transit.
Revenue from fruit exports is targeted at 336 billion baht in 2018, up from 56 billion last year.