With South East Asia rapidly developing the next step in improving trade and tourism is to improve transportation networks. One of the best ways to do this, as proven in many countries around the world, is to construct high speed rail links between all major cities and tourist destinations. The Thai Government has been taking this issue very seriously and are currently finalising preparations to construct the Kingdom’s first high speed railway line. This will be the biggest and most expensive single construction project undertaken in Thailand and has an estimated cost of 900 Billion Baht! There are four proposed High Speed Rail Links all merging at Bangkok. The first will link Thailand’s capital city with Nakhon Ratchasima , the most Northern Eastern city with a journey time of just 90 minutes with an average speed of 250 km/h. The next will link Bangkok with Chiang Mai the third with Hua Hin and finally Bangkok with Pattaya, Thailand’s busiest tourist destination having over 8.35 million visitors over the last year. The benefits will be much reduced travelling times and a vast improvement in commerce, but is it all worth it?
Further investigation reveals that China is encouraging South East Asian Countries to connect in this way, with each other and in turn connect with China. The proposed High Speed Railway for Laos will connect Luang Namtha, on the North Laos border heading south to the Laos capital Vientiane. When constructed this would offer a High Speed Rail Link straight from China to Bangkok and beyond.
One hurdle yet to be fully overcome in Laos is the concern over the cost of construction, which is around one quarter of the cost to build the Rail Link in Thailand. (7 Billion Dollars as opposed to 25 Billion Dollars.) Even though the Laos Rail Link will cost 4 times less than the one proposed in Thailand, it equates to 80% of the Laos national budget! Exim Bank of China has promised to finance the scheme and loan Laos the money.
In conclusion, it seems the next logical step to connect the major cities of Thailand with a High Speed Rail Link. It will take many years to recoup the cost of construction for all South East Asian countries intending to join the scheme, but with the ever growing need for faster trade and transportation Thailand wants to lead the way thus attracting more international companies and indeed more tourists to visit the land of smiles.
(The High Speed Rail Link for Thailand is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2018.)