The government is speeding up construction of its double-track train system project, which is hoped will turn Thailand into a regional cargo and passenger rail transport hub when completed by 2027 to serve the region's new Singapore-Kunming route.
The new network will link the regional route that connects Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and China, Department of Rail Transport director-general Pichet Kunathammarak said yesterday.
To achieve the goal of opening this new regional rail link by 2027, Thailand needs to accelerate construction of the second phase of its double-track railroad as well as the new Thai-Lao friendship bridge, he said.
The first phase of the new train system will wrap up next year when the total length of its double-track railway will have been extended to 627km, Mr Pichet said.
According to the plans for the second phase, a 168km section will be built from Chumphon to Surat Thani at a cost of 24 billion baht, a 321km section will run from Surat Thani to Hat Yai district in Songkhla at a cost of 57 billion baht, and a 45km section will connect Hat Yai to Padang Besar in Malaysia at a cost of about 6.6 billion baht, said Mr Pichet.
The construction of these three -- of seven -- sections in the second phase, which span a total length of 1,479km, will have to be sped up in order to facilitate the planned connection of the double-track rail services through Thailand.
Work on the Hat Yai-Padang Besar section will begin first, he said, adding the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will seek approval for this sub-project from the cabinet later this month.
Meanwhile, the Department of Highways has finished studying the possibility of building a second Thai-Lao friendship bridge in Nong Khai and is now preparing to design the new bridge in a way that accommodates the double-track railway, said Mr Pichet.
The study found the new bridge should be built to serve transnational double-track rail services, as the first Thai-Lao bridge in the northeastern province can still meet the demand for transportation by car across the Mekong River.
The construction of the new bridge is estimated to take about three years and should begin by early 2025 so that it can open by early 2028, he said.
It will be designed to accommodate the standard track gauge of 1.435 metres, he said.