Rail plan to boost India, China trade

Rail plan to boost India, China trade

Plans to widen railway tracks are necessary to form transport links with important markets in India and China, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has said.

Speaking in his weekly televised Returning Happiness to the People programme yesterday, Gen Prayuth said the NCPO's working plan includes initiatives to repair existing one-metre wide tracks and construct new 1.435-metre rail tracks in parallel.

The new 1.435-metre wide tracks will also be built on whichever routes are necessary to open up rail connections with China, India and other regional countries, he said.

"Today, talks [about transport links] have been held with neighbouring countries. They agree with and like our ideas," Gen Prayuth said.

"We need wider rail tracks for the future. The present one-metre wide tracks were introduced in the King Rama V period. I have not seen the progress or development in this area for a long time."

Gen Prayuth's comments came after permanent secretary for transport Soithip Traisuth said last week that the new 1.435-metre tracks will become the standard for the country’s future rail network, allowing it to connect with railways in neighbouring countries.

Despite the need to build the wider tracks, Gen Prayuth said existing one-metre tracks on some routes must be repaired for the benefit of freight trains and to offer transport for people on low-incomes. He stressed that train carriages must also be upgraded because their condition is "unacceptable".

Gen Prayuth said the NCPO has approved a basic infrastructure strategy for the country. He said advance planning is needed on the issue because construction projects are often lengthy and require a huge amount of investment.

The approval of large-scale projects has been made in principle but budgets are yet to be allocated because the agencies concerned must check whether development plans will serve the country's needs in the future, he said.

He explained that the construction of infrastructure projects takes time, since officials must coordinate operations, from hiring and procurement to drafting terms of reference for contracts. The projects need the cooperation of private, state and civil sectors, the NCPO chief said.

Finance for the projects can be secured later, Gen Prayuth said, insisting that transparency will not be compromised.

The country's transport network must link up with other Asean countries and beyond the region later, he added.

Addressing the issue of interest-free loans from other countries, Gen Prayuth said that no deals have been made with any countries, insisting that he has only approved basic plans for infrastructure projects as yet.

State enterprises including the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) are now undergoing "rehabilitation" and internal management restructuring, he said. This will improve passenger safety, customer service, debt management and the way the SRT uses its land.

Gen Prayuth meanwhile insisted that the NCPO is not trying to curb the privileges or perks on offer to political officers. However, some adjustments may be necessary to bring their benefits into line with civil servants, he said.

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