Rail link to Tak gets nod from cabinet
Ministers agree to double-track route
The cabinet accepted in principle Tuesday a proposal to construct a double-track railway linking Tak and Nakhon Phanom as part of the transport routes under the East-West Economic Corridor.
Speaking after a mobile cabinet meeting in Nakhon Sawan, government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the proposed 902km railway development scheme would see Nakhon Sawan as a connecting point.
Under the proposal, the double-track railway would connect Tak's Mae Sot district with Nakhon Phanom in the northeast via Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan and Khon Kaen.
The scheme was roughly divided into three sections -- a 250km stretch from Tak to Nakhon Sawan, a 291km length of line from Nakhon Sawan to Khon Kaen's Ban Phai district, and a 355km route to Nakhon Phanom.
Lt Gen Sansern said the project was likely to be funded from the 2019 fiscal year budget but its costs have yet to be estimated pending a feasibility study.
The double-track railway project was one of a number of proposals under review by the Prayut Chan-o-cha-led government which this week picked Nakhon Sawan to host the weekly cabinet meeting.
The transport scheme was also touted as a development plan for a cluster of four provinces in the lower North comprising Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanulok, Pichit and Uthai Thani.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the decision was based on the results of the study, which suggested a route via Nakhon Sawan would have lower investment costs.
He said the construction costs would be higher if the rail project was run via Phitsanulok as that route would require the building of a tunnel.
He said the cabinet also acknowledged a 26.8-billion-baht road expansion proposal covering 486km for the same cluster.
The scheme would be funded from a tied-over budget from 2019 to 2022, he said, with two routes given priority as part of a plan to promote Nakhon Sawan as a so-called biohub.
The two routes are a 17.6km section from Ton Ka Rung-Uthai Thani Road and a 13.5km section running from Hang Nam Sakhon to Wat Nong Pho. A total budget of 1.15 billion baht will be allocated in 2020 to fund the scheme if it goes as planned.
Mr Arkhom said the ministry will also consider a proposal to build an airport in Nakhon Sawan and determine what type of facility would be necessary in light of the rail projects.
He said it would take travellers two and a half hours if they were to use the double-track rail system and just over one hour via the high-speed train system.
A planned feasibility study will examine if the province should have a regional airport or an airfield for private planes, he added.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Gen Surasak Karnjanarat said the cabinet rejected a proposal to build roads through Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani and Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary in Tak.
Ministers were concerned about impact on forest ecology and wild animals and decided against the proposal which was expected to spur tourism, he said.