Northern double-track railway to Mekong to open 2023

Northern double-track railway to Mekong to open 2023

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith gives the keynote speech during a seminar on the long-awaited double-track rail route, in Chiang Rai on Thursday. The 85-billion-baht project was approved by the cabinet on July 31. (Photo by Theerawat Khamthita)
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith gives the keynote speech during a seminar on the long-awaited double-track rail route, in Chiang Rai on Thursday. The 85-billion-baht project was approved by the cabinet on July 31. (Photo by Theerawat Khamthita)

CHIANG RAI: Construction of the 323km double-track railway from Den Chai in Phrae to Chiang Khong on the Mekong River border will be accelerated so it can enter service two years earlier, the transport minister announced on Thursday.

Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the 85-billion-baht project was part of the ministry’s 2015-2022 transport infrastructure development plan. It was approved by the cabinet on July 31.

The ministry had asked the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to speed up construction of the much-awaited line so that it could open in 2023, ahead of the originally scheduled 2025, he said.  

Mr Arkhom was addressing a seminar on the project at a hotel in Chiang Rai. More than 200 representatives of public and private sectors, education institutes, local residents and reporters attended the seminar, held so participants could exchange views.

Local people have been waiting more than 50 years for the rail line, which will link four provinces - Phrae, Lampang, Phayao and Chiang Rai - and have 26 stations and four tunnels.

The Den Chai-Chiang Khong double-track route was initiated about five decades ago but faced continual delays, including the need for a new study in 2004 of how it would connect with China's plans to expand rail networks southward.

The route starts at Den Chai station in Phrae, connecting to the present northern train line from Hua Lamphong in Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

It then travels north, entering Lampang through the tambon Mae Tip station in Ngao district. Further north, the line enters Phayao through Phayao University station.

After reaching Chiang Rai through Pa Daet district station, it will terminate in Chiang Khong district, which borders Laos on the Mekong River.

Mr Arkhom said it was expected the route would handle about 5,600 passengers a day once it opens. This could grow to 9,800 passengers per day by 2052 - at a passenger growth rate of 1.95% per year and growth rate for cargo at 4.65% per year.

The new railway route would make Chiang Mai province the future logistics centre of the North, the transport minister said.


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