Japan splits up high-speed rail plan

Japan splits up high-speed rail plan

Japan has recommended Thailand construct the first 380-kilometre section of the 672km Thai-Japanese high-speed train route, says Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

Citing the findings of Japan's preliminary feasibility study on the investment project, Mr Arkhom said the proposed section which Japan suggests be built first would link Bangkok with the northern province of Phitsanulok. The remaining stretch covers 292km from Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai.

He was speaking after meeting Tsutomu Shimura, a deputy director-general of Japan's railway department, who presented the feasibility study of the high-speed rail project yesterday.

Only the Bangkok-Phitsanulok section was proposed first because the study confirmed it would yield better economic returns than the other part, said Mr Arkhom.

The findings will be proposed to the cabinet for approval by next month. Subject to its approval, Japan will begin a comprehensive final-stage feasibility study, he said.

A detailed construction plan would also be drawn up for the project which could be complete by next year.

Bidding for route construction should begin in 2018 and the construction work is expected to take only three years, as opposed to the five years estimated previously, said the minister.

When the work is completed, this first section of the Thai-Japanese rail project should be able to launch its high-speed train service without having to wait until the Phitsanulok-Chiang Mai section is built, he said.

Thailand and Japan have not reached an agreement on who will operate the high-speed rail service. One possibility is the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will form a subsidiary to manage the operation, he said.

The ministry also plans to request a budget for a study on how best to use land along the Thai-Japanese rail route, he said.

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