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14
Oct-2013

Train Travel in Thailand – And How it Could All Change

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Trains are a popular way for many tourists to travel around Thailand. The rail network offers gorgeous views and you can even pick up fruit and snacks from hawkers at most stations during your journey. However, train travel in Thailand is very slow and prone to delays. Could this all be changing in the future?

The Possibility of High Speed Trains

The Thai Government wants to link Bangkok with the major cities and tourist spots throughout the country, including Hat Yai in the South and Chiang Mai in the North.

It was announced in 2009 that funding was being sought after for four different train lines, which would link together Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as Chanthaburi, Padang Besar and Nong Khai. The Thai cabinet approved the plan in November of that year and the total cost of all routes was estimated at 800 billion baht (approximately 25 billion USD)

The Thai government approved the initial proposals in October 2010 for a high speed rail network that would be constructed with the help of Chinese industrial partners.

If this development is completed, it could change the way both tourists and locals travel around Thailand. Instead of a lengthy 12 hour journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you could get there in approximately three hours! High speed trains would make Thailand so much more accessible for visitors, so that they could explore more of the country during their visit.

Could The Dream of High Speed Trains Be Wishful Thinking?

However, don’t get your hopes up for a high speed train system yet. According to Credit Suisse, there is a good chance that the trains will not be built within the next seven years.

One of the obstacles that Thailand faces is the fact that, other than Bangkok, no other Thai city has more than 600,000 people. High speed rail systems are feasible in places such as Japan and China because of the sheer amount of people, but the low population of Thailand might not be enough to make the trains worth it. Some estimates have stated that it would take 300 years of ticket revenue to pay off the price of setting up the train network.

Another issue is that high speed bullet trains usually work better in areas which have citizens with high income levels. The price of a high speed train ticket would likely be much more than the local Thai citizen could afford, so this would limit train travel to only the wealthiest locals and tourists.

Also, high speed trains are required to travel in a straight line, which means that the government would need to acquire a lot of land and blast their way through mountain passes. This of course, would add to the expense. It is because of these complications that many analysts believe that a high speed rail network in Thailand won’t be in our near future.

What are your thoughts on high speed rail travel in Thailand, do you think it can be done? Let us know in the comments. 

photo credit: Roberto Trm via photopin cc

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