SRT marks longest tunnel breakthrough

SRT marks longest tunnel breakthrough

Engineers and technicians celebrate the breakthrough of the country's longest rail tunnel at Ban Hin Lab, in Saraburi's Muak Lek district. (State Railway of Thailand photo)
Engineers and technicians celebrate the breakthrough of the country's longest rail tunnel at Ban Hin Lab, in Saraburi's Muak Lek district. (State Railway of Thailand photo)

A tunnel boring machine working on the country's longest rail tunnel at Ban Hin Lab, in Saraburi's Muak Lek district, has reported its first breakthrough, the State Railway of Thailand said.

The breakthrough meant the 5.2-kilometre section officially became the country's longest tunnel, comfortably beating the 1.3-km Khun Tan tunnel -- part of the Northern rail route located on the border of Lampang and Lamphun.

The Ban Hin Lab is the first out of four tunnels which will form the dual-track rail route between Saraburi and Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat. It begins on the 136-km mark in the Map Kabao-Jira Junction section of the Northeastern line.

SRT governor, Nirut Maneephan, said the breakthrough marked a milestone for the dual-track project carried out by Italian-Thai Development Plc and the Rail Tunnelling Co, which is a prominent feature in the rail transport infrastructure development plan for 2015-2022.

Upon completion, the dual-track upgrade would bring the Northeast closer to the rest of the country as more trains, including high-speed services, will be able to run more frequently and carry more passengers and freight to the upper Northeast.

While three more tunnels will be constructed along the main Northeast line, four new tunnels will be built on the Den Chai-Chiang Rai-Chiang Kong branch line.

The branch route spanning 323km will go through Phrae, Phayao, Lampang and Chiang Rai, where it will run to the 2nd Chiang Saen port, before terminating at the border bridge which crosses to Laos.

The four tunnels on the Den Chai-Chiang Khong route comprise two to be built in Phrae with a combined length of 7.5-km, a third near the Phayao University and a fourth at Doi Luang in Chiang Rai.

In April, the SRT announced it expected to name the contractors for the Den Chai-Chiang Khong and the 355-km section between Ban Phai and Nakhon Phanom in the northeast route next month. Electronic bidding will be held to select the contractors to work on the sections.

Six companies or consortiums are expected to take part in the e-bidding, said Suranadet Thupawirot, the SRT's chief engineer for constructions and special projects.

The Den Chai-Chiang Khong project is valued at 72.9 billion baht, while the Ban Phai-Nakhon Phanom is worth 55.4 billion baht, he said. The Den Chai-Chiang Khong project is further broken down into three construction contracts.

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