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The State Railway of Thailand's (SRT) planned double-track railway development will be a boon to cross-border freight transport, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says.
Gen Prayut was speaking as he presided over the unveiling of modern train carriages from China which were deployed in a special service from Bangkok to Nakhon Pathom Monday.
The premier said nationwide rail networks would be beneficial to cargo shipment and passenger transportation.
If the networks are developed and linked with other countries in the region, such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia, and even others in Europe and the Middle East, they would help support the transport of export goods, he said.
Rail transport is low-cost and Thailand still relies heavily on exports, which account for 70% of the country's economy, Gen Prayut said.
"I want the Transport Ministry to iron out plans for the connectivity of all transport modes -- road, rail, water and air -- to give the public convenience," he said.
"The SRT was also asked to consider how to capitalise on its land for commercial purposes so the organisation can survive in the future," said the prime minister.
The modern carriages are among the first batch of 39 delivered on July 14 by the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation. The SRT has purchased 115 carriages from the firm.
The carriages will start service between Bangkok and Chiang Mai in October, according to SRT governor Wuthichart Kalyanamitra.
The carriages -- equipped with CCTV cameras, WiFi, LED screens and bathrooms -- are capable of travelling at a maximum speed of 120km per hour.
Referring to the SRT's double-track railway plans, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the terms of reference for construction of the Prachuap Khiri Khan-Chumphon section are expected to be presented to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak this week. The bidding process is expected to start early next month, the minister said.
Next year, the cabinet will be asked to approve the Hua Hin-Prachuap Khiri Khan section at a cost of 10.3 billion baht, Mr Arkhom said. Another plan will involve the extension of the double-track rail lines to Chumphon and Surat Thani as well as rail connections with Malaysia.
This article first appeared on www.bangkokpost.com
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