Pattaya to Bangkok at speed
As the Eastern Seaboard continues to prove one of the most important regions showcasing the strength of the overall Thai economy, the government recently announced its intention to open a high-speed rail link between Bangkok and Pattaya within the next five years.
The government is hoping to borrow a massive two trillion baht to help fund what will be a major series of infrastructure undertakings designed to improve overall efficiencies in logistics and fuel expenditures over a seven-year period.
The first of the infrastructure projects will be the Bangkok to Pattaya high-speed rail link, with a completion date set for 2018.
The government will be inviting bidders for the construction of this and three other high-speed rail links (Bangkok to Hua Hin; Bangkok to Phitsanulok; and Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima) sometime around September this year, providing the budget plan is approved.
The Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning Office, which will be overseeing the process in the initial stages, believes tenders will be coming from nearby Asian countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea as well as Germany, France and Spain.
The Planning Office believes the projects, once completed, could reduce Thailand’s overall logistics costs by a minimum of two percent. Equally, travelling times in the 300-kilometre radius around Bangkok will be reduced by half, from an average of three hours to an hour and a half.
Out of the proposed two trillion baht borrowing, the government suggests 1.65 trillion baht will be spent on railways development. Of the remainder, 243 billion baht will go to road development, 30.7 billion baht on water transport development, and 12.19 billion baht on road checkpoint development, whatever that is.
Reducing logistics costs by even two percent will result in strong savings for the economy. In 2012 logistics costs amounted to about 1.75 billion baht out of the total GDP of 11.5 trillion baht.
It is expected that these new rail and road development projects could shave about 100 bilion baht from the annual spending on fuel.
Apart from the featured four high-speed rail links, the government is planning to borrow money to finance 10 other mass transit projects, dual track railways and other road infrastructure plans.
The opposition believes the high-speed rail link and other projects could be funded via the annual budget without the need to borrow such large amounts. They also believe the high-speed railways should extend as far as Nong Khai, on the border with Laos, and down to the Malaysian border instead of terminating at Nakhon Ratchasima and Hua Hin.
Until a final budget is approved by parliament and tenders are called, all the projects remain as merely plans on a drawing board.