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High-speed train projects face delay



Plans for high-speed rail travel remain in the form of models only. (File photo)

Plans to begin four high-speed train projects this year now will be put off until next year, though the timeframe will remain the same, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith says.

The minister plans to tell the cabinet next week that there will be no significant progress on the projects late this year as originally envisaged.

The projects are a 252.5km Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route under the 179-billion-baht Thai-Chinese joint development; a 382km Bangkok-Phitsanulok rail track under the 224-billion-baht Thai-Japanese venture, and the 193.5km Bangkok-Rayong and 165km Bangkok-Hua Hin routes, worth about 152 billion baht and 94.6 billion baht respectively. The delay is mainly due to unfinished studies on the projects.

Mr Arkhom, however, insisted the projects will still be completed by 2017.

Permanent secretary for transport Phiraphon Thawonsuphacharoen earlier expressed concern over the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima railroad, saying disagreement over the design of a 3.5km section in Nakhon Ratchasima and a draft contract may slow the project. Bangkok and Beijing had also failed to agree on financial issues.

The 3.5km section, known as the “train to nowhere” was planned for the village of Ban Rai Klang Dong in Nakhon Ratchasima, next to the Chokchai Ranch.

The plan called for construction of the tiny section of railway, simply to show that Thai and Chinese planners had reached agreement. But they haven’t, and even the strange train to nowhere will not get under way in 2016.

In another development, Easy Pass electronic toll cards used on the city’s expressways and M-Pass cards used on motorways heading east can be used interchangeably on both networks beginning Tuesday.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith unveiled the details after the signing of a memorandum of agreement, to enable the use of Easy Pass and M-Pass cards on both networks. The agreement covers the Expressway Authority of Thailand (Exat) and the Highways Department and concerns the electronic toll collection system (ETCS).

The Easy Pass card, sold by the Exat, enables motorists to automatically pay tolls on the Bangkok expressway system. It has been in use since February 2010 for seven expressways: Chalerm Mahanakhon, Chalongrat, Srirat, Kanchanaphisek, Burapha Whithi, Udon Rathaya, and Srirat-outer ring road. The Highways Department has introduced ETCS using M-Pass cards on the Bang Pa-in-Bang Na and Bangkok-Chon Buri motorways.

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