Nation on track for faster rail

Nation on track for faster rail

Wider track gauge will boost Asian trade

The Transport Ministry will switch the country’s rail transport to wider tracks of 1.435 metres after finishing construction of the recently approved six dual-track routes which will be its last project using one-metre wide tracks.

Currently all of Thailand’s trains run on one-metre wide rails and the six dual-track projects were needed to increase the speed with which goods and people are transported along these key routes in the immediate future.

But in the long run the new 1.435-metre wide tracks will become the standard for the country’s future rail network, allowing it to connect with rail tracks from neighbouring countries, permanent secretary for transport Soithip Traisuth said yesterday.

The one-metre gauge dual tracks on six routes will total 887km. These routes include the 185km section from Jira junction in Nakhon Ratchasima to Khon Kaen, 167km from Prachuap Khiri Khan to Chumphon, and 165km from Nakhon Pathom to Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district. Their construction is scheduled for 2015 to 2018.

Another three routes, which are scheduled to be built between 2016 and 2020, are the 132km section from Map Kabao in Saraburi to Nakhon Ratchasima, 148km from Lop Buri to Pak Nampho in Nakhon Sawan, and 90km from Prachuap Khiri Khan to Hua Hin.

The six routes currently use single tracks and trains have to wait for shunting at junctions. This can lengthen traveling time. The Transport Ministry wants to first build dual tracks for these routes because they are key railways with high traffic volumes. Trains are expected to travel faster after the construction is complete, Ms Soithip said.

The speed of cargo trains will increase from 29km/h to 60km/h while passenger trains will go twice as fast, from 50km/h to 100km/h.

The new 1.435 metre gauge will be used with two pilot projects — the 737-kilometre route linking Nong Khai, Khorat, Saraburi, Laem Chabang and Mab Ta Phut and the 655km stretch from Chiang Khong, Den Chai to Ban Phachi.

These routes will meet at Ban Phachi, which currently serves as a rail junction in Ayutthaya’s Pachi district, Ms Soithip said.

On Tuesday, the National Council for Peace and Order gave the green light for the construction of the two routes, with costs estimated at 741.4 billion baht, under a plan to boost rail transport from southern China to Thailand.

Construction of the routes will be carried out between next year and 2021.

In the long term, transport officials also plan to extend the route from Ban Pachi to Padang Besa in Songkhla’s Sadao district, Ms Soithip added.

The plan to lay 1.435m-wide tracks along the routes will take the national rail system into a new phase of standard gauge, which is expected to help boost rail travel across all of South East Asia.

“When these plans are completed we will be then able to connect with China via Laos as well as Malaysia and Singapore,” Ms Soithip said.

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