In a groundbreaking move for the realm of transportation, Japan’s venture into Thailand’s high-speed rail domain, termed the “High-Speed Rail Showdown,” promises to reshape the landscape of connectivity. The initial phase, spanning from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and covering a formidable 380 kilometers, has unveiled the first segment of this ambitious project.
This strategic initiative, a collaborative effort involving the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism of Japan (MLIT), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Japanese Embassy in Thailand, stems from a comprehensive study on the economic viability and financial aspects of the high-speed rail project between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The study, conducted during the first phase of the Bangkok to Phitsanulok stretch, covering a distance of 380 kilometers, revealed an Economic Internal Rate of Return (EIRR) at an impressive 17.3%, surpassing the 12% benchmark.
The study’s findings also showcased a positive Net Present Value (NPV) throughout the project’s timeline, establishing a compelling economic case for its realization. The Japanese Embassy is set to present the complete study to the Ministry of Transport for further deliberation.
The collaborative efforts between the Thai and Japanese governments materialized in 2015 when the Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) was signed in Tokyo. This agreement, fostering cooperation in rail system development between the two nations, laid the groundwork for the current high-speed rail undertaking. The Thai-Japanese collaboration involves the initial development of the Bangkok to Phitsanulok segment, followed by the Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai stretch.
While the estimated construction cost for the Bangkok to Phitsanulok phase stands at approximately 261.754 billion Baht, pending approval from the Ministry of Transport, the project could swiftly progress to the implementation phase. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for the Bangkok to Phitsanulok stretch have already received approval from the National Environmental Board since July 2023.
As the endeavor gains momentum, projections for the first year of operation estimate around 10,900 passengers per day, gradually increasing to 50,500 passengers per day in the subsequent decades. The fare structure, starting at 80 Baht plus 1.8 Baht per kilometer, positions the Bangkok to Phitsanulok journey at an approximate cost of 764 Baht.
Spanning a total distance of approximately 688 kilometers, the high-speed rail project aims to connect Bangkok and Chiang Mai with a standard gauge of 1.435 meters. Drawing inspiration from Japan’s Shinkansen, the rail system is designed to achieve a maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour, featuring 12 stations along the route, including major hubs such as Don Mueang, Ayutthaya, Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, and Chiang Mai.
This groundbreaking high-speed rail initiative marks Thailand’s third such project, following the collaborative venture with China for the Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima line, currently under construction and slated for opening in 2024. The second line, connecting three airports, signed a contract in October 2019, with an expected completion within five years. Despite the proposed timelines, construction for this project is yet to commence.
As Thailand embraces the future of transportation, the High-Speed Rail Showdown beckons as a symbol of progress and cross-border collaboration, poised to redefine the nation’s connectivity and economic landscape.