Doubts over Thailand’s 2028 completion date for high speed rail link

Despite last week’s announcement that the high-speed railway from Bangkok to the Laos border would be completed by 2028, there remain lingering doubts about whether the Thai government is fully committed to the project, valued at about US$12 billion. Questions are being raised about perceived benefits to Thailand or how the government can recover any of the costs.

The new Chinese-designed high-speed rail service will run up to 250 kilometres per hour.

The Thai Transport and Foreign Affairs ministries declared on July 6 that the country will complete the 609 kilometre high-speed rail from Bangkok to the Lao border at Nong Khai, by 2028. Nong Khai is on the opposite side of the Mekong River from the Laos capital, Vientiane.

The updated 2028 date was announced just a day after Chinese FM Wang Yi met with Thai PM Prayut Chan-ocha and Thai FM Don Pramudwinai.

Currently, the much-delayed high-speed rail line is only 5% complete.

A 414 kilometre-long high-speed train service runs from Vientiane to the Lao-China border and started last December. The service is already providing popular passenger services as well as ferrying Laos produce and products into southern China.

The Thai section of the line – from the Laos border to the Thai capital – was to be completed at the same time as the Laos-China stretch when the announcement to commence the project was made in 2012.

But Thai investors and academics are brushing aside any assurances made on July 6 saying that the Thai government has shown little commitment or enthusiasm for the high-speed rail service and that the current Thai PM’s term in office finishes soon.

Professor of international trade, Ruth Banomyong, working in transport and logistics at Bangkok’s Thammasat University says the December 2021 target was long since abandoned and that the new 2028 seemed little more than a broad statement of appeasement during China’s Foreign Minister visit.

“The Thai prime minister…. needs to re-put this project in the public eye, saying that, oh yes, it is going to be done.”

Ruth says it will take decades, not years, for the US$12 billion project to pay for itself.

“…and only if the government also invests in the additional freight and passenger services needed to bring out the line’s full potential. Done right the line could also spur new growth and development along its route through Thailand’s rural northeast.”

“The government has yet to share its forecasts for key factors such as passenger numbers or freight traffic, making a hard-nosed assessment of the project impossible.”

Doubts over Thailand's 2028 completion date for high speed rail link | News by ThaigerSOURCE: VOA News

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Tim Newton

Tim joined The Thaiger as one of its first employees in 2018 as an English news writer/editor and then began to present The Thaiger's Daily news show in 2020, Thailand News Today (or TNT for short). He has lived in Thailand since 2011, having relocated from Australia.

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