On the right track: Thailand’s new transport minister charts course for infrastructure upgrade

Photo courtesy of Thai PBS

Newly appointed Transport Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit yesterday committed to enhancing Thailand’s logistics network, focusing primarily on the country’s railway and maritime transport infrastructure. In his first press briefing, Suriya stated that strategic plans are underway and will be made public in the coming week.

Highlighting the importance of the logistics sector, which contributes nearly 15% to Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP), Suriya noted that only a mere 2% is generated by rail and maritime transport. He emphasized the need for Thailand’s transportation development to increase its competitive edge.

Suriya reassured that the double-track upgrades throughout the country’s rail network would be completed as scheduled. He predicts this will boost ridership numbers and stimulate further investment in the rail infrastructure. A key initiative for the ministry is the double-track upgrade between Khon Kaen and Nong Khai, a project that will require an investment of 29.7 billion baht (US$835 million) from the government.

Suriya also revealed that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will visit the project site in the near future.

To accommodate the influx of airlines planning to operate commercial services in Thailand, Suriya plans to request Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang to release unused flight slots currently held by the Royal Thai Air Force at airports managed by the Airports of Thailand (AoT).

“Doing so will allow us to increase the number of commercial flights served by the airports by 100-150 per day.”

Suriya stressed that slot allocation must meet the demand, especially with the impending high season. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand will determine slot allocation based on its evaluation of each airport’s capacity.

When questioned about the proposed 20-baht fare cap for electric trains, Suriya acknowledged the importance of affordable fare prices but mentioned the need for negotiations with Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc and other concessionaires.

The issue is further complicated as each line operates under the supervision of different agencies. For instance, the Green Line is jointly managed by the Interior Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Suriya anticipates a 10% increase in commuter numbers if fares are capped at 20 baht.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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