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The government is defending its planned high-speed train lines, saying their development will stimulate regional economies, open new domestic economic areas and spur tourism.
"The government's strategy (for high-speed rail) focuses mainly on how to boost the regional economy rather than passenger volume and rates of return," said Deputy Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asked the Transport Ministry to produce an updated report on high-speed train development plans next Monday.
The ministry also needs to study technical and engineering aspects, investment and finance, service management, and connectivity with existing mass transit, the airport rail link and other transport systems.
Mr Chatchart said four standard-gauge lines were planned for trains that could reach speeds of of 250 kilometres an hour. They are: Bangkok-Phitsanulok-Chiang Mai (745 km), Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima (256 km), Bangkok-Hua Hin (225 km), and Bangkok-Rayong (221 km).
The total investment is estimated at around 300 billion baht.
Mr Chatchart said the government would prefer to raise the funds locally by selling bonds, which would be easier that taking out overseas loans.
The government would likely shoulder the cost of civil works, while private companies would be invited to manage the train services.
The Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning has funds for fiscal 2012 to conduct feasibility studies on three of the four routes, except for Bangkok-Rayong. The studies are expected to take three months and the design process six months.
China has already studied a route linking Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima and Nong Khai as part of its broader plan for high-speed rail services linking Kunming with Laos and Thailand.
This article first appeared on www.bangkokpost.com
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