Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has ordered acceleration of the southern land bridge connecting Chumphon on the eastern coast along the Gulf of Thailand to Ranong along the Andaman Sea.
Karom Polpornklang, deputy government spokesman, said the cabinet on Monday approved continuation of the project worth 1 trillion baht, with the aim of stimulating the economy and enticing foreign investors.
"The premier has instructed the Transport Ministry to expedite the project, studied earlier by the previous government, turning it into a megaproject to boost the economy. The Transport Ministry will complete the inspection of the construction site by April next year," he said.
The land bridge project, which has been discussed for 40 years, aims to develop a logistics network connecting Ranong on the Andaman Sea to Chumphon on the Gulf of Thailand.
It also forms part of the southern corridor, which comprises parts of Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Nevertheless, during the cabinet meeting, concerns were also raised by the Natural Resources and Environment minister regarding potential environmental impact on forests in Ranong.
According to Mr Karom, the timeline for the project's development includes a plan to begin a roadshow overseas from November to January next year to attract foreign investment.
The investment model will be in the form of a public-private partnership. The government plans to open bidding for private sector participation between April and June next year.
Furthermore, a policy committee and an office for the Southern Economic Corridor will be established by December 2024. Draft legislation for the Southern Economic Corridor will be developed and royal decrees for land expropriation between January 2025 and December 2026 will be issued.
The project will be proposed at the cabinet meeting for consideration and approval by July to August 2025. Construction is expected to start in September 2025 and is projected to be operational in October 2030.
The project, which requires an investment of 1 trillion baht, will be divided into four phases: the first phase will cost roughly 610 billion baht, the second will cost roughly 165 billion baht, the third will cost roughly 229 billion baht and the fourth will cost 85.1 billion baht.
The project will involve the development of the ports in Ranong and Chumphon and a connection between both ports, with a budget allocation of 6.21 billion baht for land expropriation.
Mr Karom said the study conducted by the previous government had already identified suitable locations for the construction of both ports: Laem Riw Cape in Chumphon on the Gulf of Thailand side and the other at Laem Ao Ang Cape in Ranong on the Andaman coast.
Each port would be able to handle about 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units of container throughput.
The development also includes a 93.9-kilometre transportation link, with 89.3km on land and 2.15km at sea for the Ranong port and 2.48km at sea for the Chumphon port.
This project encompasses a special highway and standard-gauge double-track railway, supporting both freight and passenger transport in an integrated transportation network.
In a related development, the prime minister yesterday instructed the Energy Ministry to review the measures to assist gas users and present them to the cabinet meeting next week.