Light transit, tram plans 'make progress' in 5 centres
The government is planning to build new light rail transit and tram systems in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen and Phitsanulok under its policy to develop faster and more modern transport upcountry.
The provinces, known as the economic and tourist centres in the North, the South and the Northeast, have been picked by the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, which is eyeing rail systems as their main transport services, supported by buses.
The projects were unveiled by office chief Chaiwat Tongkamkoon who said the changes are making good progress, to the point that land expropriation and passenger fares are being discussed.
Chiang Mai, which has long relied on local red songthaew pickup trucks in which passengers sit on two rows of seats, will see a major facelift in its public transport with a mix of light rail transit and buses.
Officials are still talking about what should be the right distance for the rail tracks -- 34.9 kilometres, or 41.9km -- in three routes and whether the train will run only on the ground, Mr Chaiwat said. The light rail transit, or LRT, has "light" passenger capacity compared with metro systems but it ensures fast and convenient travel, he said.
Private companies may be invited to invest jointly with the State Railways of Thailand (SRT), which oversees the project, Mr Chaiwat said.
The LRT is also planned for future transport development in Phuket. Under this project, the train will mostly run on the ground, except for its station at Phuket International Airport which will be built on an elevated track and the other station in the Thalang area which will be built underground, Mr Chaiwat said.
Officials are conducting a feasibility study and will forward findings to the cabinet this year, he said.
The SRT has also been assigned to develop a light rail system in Nakhon Ratchasima's Muang district. Like Chiang Mai, the new transport service will have three routes that will run pass Nakhon Ratchasima railway station and Nakhon Ratchasima inter-provincial bus terminal, Mr Chaiwat said.
In Khon Kaen, the rail tracks will run north-south from tambon Samran to tambon Tha Phra in Muang district for a distance of 22.8 km, he said.
In Phitsanulok, officials are choosing between buses and a tram, a bus-like vehicle with a length of tramway, in Muang district.