Asean rail upgrades a summit priority

Asean rail upgrades a summit priority

Proposals to improve Asean’s rail system and rail connectivity to meet international standards will be discussed at this weekend's Asean Summit, State Railway of Thailand (SRT) acting governor Worawut Mala said yesterday.

Topics up for discussion include Asean's rail connection development, ways to advertise the national rail system, and railway upgrades, he said, addressing the Asean Railway CEOs' Conference, held yesterday ahead of the summit.

An online "Asean Railways Portal" was also launched at yesterday's meeting to provide the public with news and information about rail links in seven Asean member countries; Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Thailand now has five different projects that it plans to use to connect its rail network with these neighbouring countries, he said.

In the South, the country plans to extend its south-bound rail route from Narathiwat’s Sungai Kolok to Malaysia's rail system in Padang Besar, in order to connect Thailand to Singapore's railway system, he said.

In the Northeast, Thailand, along with Laos and China, is developing a joint high-speed train system, which will lessen the time needed to travel from Thailand to Kunming and Beijing through Laos, he said.

From Beijing, train passengers will be able to travel on to Russia and other European countries by train, he said.

In the East, Thailand and Cambodia earlier this year signed a memorandum of understanding to begin connecting their rail systems with one another, from Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet to Cambodia's Poipet, he said.

In the West, Thailand and Myanmar are negotiating a proposal to link up their rail systems from the Three Pagodas Pass, a mountain pass connecting Kanchanaburi's Sangkhla Buri to Myanmar's Payathonsu, to Myanmar's Dawei, he said.

In addition to these four projects, Thailand and Malaysia are also discussing a plan to bring back the Sugnai Kolok-Pasir Mas rail route for the sake of economic development and border trade, he said.

In another development on the high-speed project to connect Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports, the SRT is now looking forward to issuing an executive decree to expropriate about 800 rai of land at an estimated cost of 3 billion baht.

The land expropriation plan has already been submitted to the cabinet for approval and the required executive decree will be sought later, he said, adding that the plan would be announced in the Royal Gazette one to two months after the cabinet approves the plan.

As for the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed train project, which is set to open to the public sometime between 2023 and 2024, the government is now speeding up the signing of all contracts related to the project, he said. The line is expected to be in service by 2023, or not later than 2024.

At the same time, a study of the details of the construction of the Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai section of the high-speed train project is underway. A plan to build a railway bridge to link Nong Khai with Vientiane is also being drawn up.

An informed source said the SRT's plan that is set to be announced at the Asean Summit is a five-year plan to expand Thailand's rail network from its current length of 800km to 4,565km.

The source said 841km of track will be an extension of the normal rail system, while 2,476km are set aside for a dual-track system and 1,248km are planned for the high-speed railway.


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