High-speed rail in Thailand

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Thailand high-speed rail
TypeHigh-speed rail
StatusUnder construction
Operator(s)State Railway of Thailand
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Operating speed250 km/h (Chinese-built); 300+ km/h (Japanese-built)


In October 2010, the Thai parliament approved initial proposals for a high-speed rail (HSR) network. Five lines capable of handling 250 km/h speeds would radiate from Bangkok.[1]

In March 2013, the transport minister revealed that only one company would be selected to run all high-speed train routes, scheduled to be operational between 2018 and 2019.[2] The first 86 km section from Bang Sue to Ayuthaya was planned to be tendered in late-2013. However, a seven month-long political crisis involving the dissolution of parliament and an annulled February 2014 election culminated in a military coup in May 2014. In July 2014 the new military administration deferred all HSR plans until a civilian government is installed.

Following the military coup of May 2014 and his elevation to the office of prime minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha proposed connecting Bangkok to two popular resort cities, Pattaya and Hua Hin, by high-speed rail. The Transport Ministry's Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning had earlier conducted studies on both routes. They assumed that, for the Bangkok-Pattaya line, trains would run through Chachoengsao, Chonburi, and Pattaya, terminating in Rayong, a total distance of 193.5 km. Construction costs were estimated at 152 billion baht with an economic internal rate of return (EIRR) of 13 percent. Construction would take about 54 months. The route to Hua Hin would be 209 km in length with an investment cost of about 98 billion baht and EIRR of 8.1 percent. The office concluded that these routes would be of little interest to private investors due to the high investment required, coupled with a low rate of return.[3] The four HSR lines were included in fiscal year 2017 plans.[4]

In September 2017 the government outlined the building of the HSR network in three stages:

Stage 1 (2017 to 2021)[edit]

  • Eastern HSR to U-Tapao Airport
  • Northeastern HSR to Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Southern HSR to Hua Hin

Stage 2 (2022 - 2026)[edit]

  • Northern HSR to Phitsanulok
  • Northeastern HSR extension to Nong Khai

Stage 3 (2027 - 2036)[edit]

  • Northern HSR extension to Chiang Mai
  • Southern HSR extension to Surat Thani
  • Southern HSR extension to Padang Besar
  • Eastern HSR extension to Trat

Proposed high-speed routes[edit]

High-Speed Corridor Route Speed (km/h) Length (km) Network Cost (USD) Projected Operation Status
Northern HSR Phase 1 BangkokAyutthayaPhitsanulok[5] 300+ 384 Japan 8.67 billion 2025 (Forecast) Planned
Northern HSR Phase 2 Phitsanulok–SukhothaiLampangChiang Mai[5] 300+ 285 Japan 13 billion 2027-2030 Planning stage
Northeastern HSR Phase 1 Bangkok–Ayutthaya–SaraburiNakhon Ratchasima 250 250 China 821 million 2021 Under Construction
Northeastern HSR Phase 2 Nakhon Ratchasima–Khon KaenUdon ThaniNong KhaiVientiane 250 380 China 1.25 billion 2025 Planned
Southern HSR Bangkok–Nakhon PathomRatchaburiPhetchaburiHua Hin (-Hat Yai-Padang Besar) 250 211 PPP Net Cost 2022 EIA, Proposed (Hua Hin-Padang Besar)
Eastern HSR[6] Don Mueang, Bang Sue, Makkasan, Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chachoengsao, Chonburi, Si Racha, Pattaya, U-Tapao, (Rayong). 250 rural; 160 urban 260 PPP Net Cost 6.595 billion 2024 (Forecast) Bidding[7]

Northern HSR: Bangkok - Phitsanulok - Chiang Mai (Japanese-Thai project)[edit]

Japan will provide Shinkansen technology for a high-speed rail link between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai. Phase 1 will connect Bangkok to Phitsanulok. It is estimated to cost 280 billion baht. Seven stations have been planned for this segment: Bang Sue, Don Mueang, Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit, and Phitsanulok. To reduce costs, Thai authorities have proposed reducing the number of stations, but JICA has rejected this suggestion on the grounds that it defeats the original purpose of the project.[8] This portion of the route is scheduled to be submitted to the Thai cabinet for financial approval in August 2018.[8]

After an initial cooperation agreement was signed in 2015, the Thai government formally requested the technical and financial assistance of the Japanese government in late-2016 for the building of the Northern HSR line to Chiang Mai.[9] The Japanese completed a feasibility study which estimated that the project will cost 420 billion baht to build.[10]

A feasibility study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in mid-2018 reported that the train as planned would run at a loss. JICA's study projects only 10,000 passengers per day on the route, as opposed to the 30,000 per day forecasted in the original planning proposals. To be profitable from ticket sales would require 50,000 fares per day.[8]

Northeastern HSR: Bangkok - Nakhon Ratchasima - Nong Khai (Sino-Thai railway project)[edit]

The China–Thailand high-speed rail link under construction, Khon Kaen, 16 May 2017

In November 2014, Thailand and China signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to construct the Thai portion of the transnational railway running from Kunming, China to the Gulf of Thailand. In November 2015, both parties agreed to a division of labour. Under the framework, a joint venture will be set up to run the project. China will conduct feasibility studies, design the system, construct tunnels and bridges, and lay track. Thailand will conduct social and environmental impact studies, expropriate land for construction, handle general civil engineering and power supply, and supply construction materials.

Once built, China will operate and maintain the system for the first three years of operation. Between the third and the seventh years, both countries will share responsibility. Later Thailand will take on responsibility with China as adviser. China will train Thai personnel to operate and maintain the system.

Dual standard-gauge tracks will be laid throughout the project. In Thailand, two routes will diverge at a junction in Kaeng Khoi District in Saraburi Province. One will connect Bangkok to Kaeng Khoi. The other route will connect Kaeng Khoi with Map Ta Phut of Rayong Province. From Kaeng Khoi tracks will lead north to Nakhon Ratchasima and on to Nong Khai Province. The Bangkok to Nong Khai HSR line will connect to a 417 km (259 mi) line from Vientiane to the northern Lao border and a 520 km (320 mi) line from the Lao border to Kunming.[11]

Construction will be divided into four sections: Bangkok-Kaeng Khoi, Map Ta Phut-Kaeng Khoi, Kaeng Khoi-Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai. Construction of Thailand's 873 km (542 mi) portion of the railway system started in December 2017 and is expected to take three years for phase 1 to Nakhon Ratchasima. The first contract consisted of a 3.5 km section from Klong Dan to Pang Asok for a budget of 371 million baht after a nine percent decrease from the initial budget.[12]

In February 2018, the Thai Transport Minister stated that the next contract for the first phase, 253 km Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima section, will be issued by May 2018. The second contract will cover the 11 km section from Sikhio to Kut Chik.[13] The first phase of the line to Nakhon Ratchasima has been divided into 14 contracts, with contracts 3-7 to be auctioned by June 2018, while contracts 8-14 will be auctioned before the end of 2018.[14]

Construction contracts and progress[edit]

Contract Details Distance
1 Klong Dong to Pang Asok, Nakhon Ratchasima Province (Dec 2017) 3.5 km
2 Sikhio to Kut Chik (2018?) 11 km
3 11 km
4 15 km
5 11 km
6 15 km
7 11 km

Southern HSR: Bangkok-Hua Hin[edit]

Eastern HSR: Bangkok to U-Tapao Airport[edit]

A HSR line to the eastern seaboard was first proposed in 1996 but there was no progress for over a decade. In 2009, the government requested the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) to create a plan for new HSR network in Thailand that included an eastern HSR line to Rayong. The route was finalised before the 2011 election with the promise to begin construction the next year if re-elected but they lost the election. After the 2011 election, the new government reviewed all HSR plans and the SRT stated that the line would be tendered in early-2014.[15] After the May 2014 coup there were further delays while the military government reviewed all HSR lines, initially deferring all projects. In early-2016, the government agreed to proceed with the eastern HSR route and suggested that it could be extended to Don Mueang International Airport beyond the terminus at Bang Sue Intercity Terminal thus providing a link with three airports.[16] Extending the line would provide a link between Don Mueang Airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, and U-Tapao International Airport in Ban Chang District.

During 2017, OTP and the Ministry of Transport in consultation with the SRT agreed that by extending the line to terminate at Don Mueang it would effectively include the long delayed extension of the Airport Rail Link (Bangkok) from Makkasan Station to Don Mueang Airport as part of the project. The Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EEC Office) in October 2017 finalised previous OTP plans to build the 10 station Eastern HSR line linking Don Mueang airport, Bang Sue, Makkasan, Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chonburi, Si Racha, Pattaya, U-Tapao Airport, and Rayong. In early-2018, the section to Rayong was excluded due to environmental and safety concerns and it was decided that the line would terminate at U-Tapao Airport.[17]

The SRT has stated that the first tenders for the Eastern HSR line are expected to be tendered by May 2018 with a four month auction period before the contract is awarded.[18] The cost of the project is estimated to be over 200 billion baht, of which the Thai Government will fund 123 billion baht and the private sector estimated to contribute 90 billion baht.[19][6]

Construction contracts and progress[edit]

The line is expected to be tendered on November 12, 2018, the winner will be awarded in December 2018. There are 31 tenders that purchased the request for proposal (RFP) form and two rival consortia were submit bids[20]:

  1. BSR Joint Venture, led by BTS Group Holdings, and supported by Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding.
  2. The consortium of Charoen Pokphand Holding and Partners, led by Charoen Pokphand, and supported by Italian-Thai Development, China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, CH. Karnchang, and Bangkok Expressway and Metro.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Thailand to negotiate with China on high-speed proposal". International Railway Journal. 2010-10-30. Archived from the original on 2010-11-01. Retrieved 2010-10-30.
  2. ^ "Transport Minister: One firm will run all high-speed train routes". Thai Financial Post. 2013-03-21. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02.
  3. ^ "Difficulty in implementing high-speed train to resort provinces". Mass Communication Organization of Thailand (MCOT). 2015-02-14. Archived from the original on 2015-02-15. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  4. ^ "4 high speed rail projects in FY 2017 investment plan". The Nation. 1 November 2016.
  5. ^ a b Hongtong, Thodsapol (16 December 2017). "Bullet train project set to cost B420bn". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b Apisitniran, Lamonphet (20 March 2018). "Pitch set for airport rail link". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Cabinet approves high-speed train project linking 3 main airports". Bangkok Post. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Hongtong, Thodsapol (25 July 2018). "Losses predicted for high-speed railway". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  9. ^ "Government to ask Japan for rail project support". Bangkok Post. 5 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Bullet train project set to cost B420bn". Bangkok Post. 16 December 2017.
  11. ^ Jikkham, Patsara (2015-11-17). "Sino-Thai railway responsibilities set". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  12. ^ "Thai Chinese rail project falls in price". Bangkok Post. 23 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Pace picks up on fast train project". The Nation. 9 March 2018.
  14. ^ "New govt 'won't halt airport fast rail plan'". Bangkok Post. 9 March 2018.
  15. ^ "Rayong added to high-speed rail link". Bangkok Post. 13 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Military government set to link 3 airports-Work on 'super link' is tipped to begin in September". Bangkok Post. 25 January 2016.
  17. ^ "EEC high-speed railway to steer clear of Rayong on safety fears". Bangkok Post. 14 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Auction for train contracts in April". Bangkok Post. 28 February 2018.
  19. ^ "New govt 'won't halt airport fast rail plan'". Bangkok Post. 9 March 2018.
  20. ^ "CP, BTS groups set to bid for airport link high-speed railway - The Nation". The Nation. Retrieved 2018-11-12.

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