The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is planning to spend nearly 90 billion baht to upgrade the existing single-track railways leading to the deep South to double tracks to cut down travel times for passengers and promote tourism to the region.
The project will be integrated with the SRT’s ongoing double-track upgrades in Chumphon, which will benefit rail passengers heading to the southern provinces of Surat Thani, Songkhla, as well as the Malaysian border town of Padang Besar, observers say.
“Once the upgrades are completed, travel times to resort cities along the southern coast will be significantly reduced which we hope will boost the number of rail passenger numbers,” said SRT acting governor Worawut Mala.
The project, which the SRT dubbed “Southern Route Phase 2”, will see the state-owned rail agency allocate 24 billion baht to build a double-track line between Chumphon and Surat Thani, 57 billion baht to upgrade the existing single-track line between Surat Thani and Songkhla, and another eight billion baht to upgrade the track between Hat Yai and Padang Besar.
Mr Worawut used the example the ongoing double-track upgrades between Bang Sue and Chumphon to highlight the need to build additional tracks across the entire railway network. “At present, it takes travellers between eight to nine hours to get to Chumphon from Bangkok’s Bang Sue station,” he said. “Once the upgrade is completed, it will only take about two to three hours to reach Hua Hin,” he said.
“Right now, Hua Hin-bound tourists have to spend about four to five hours on the road,” said Mr Worawut. “We are confident that the shorter travel time will make rail trips more popular, especially among foreigners.”
According to SRT figures, 90% of passengers taking the train from Bangkok to Chumphon are foreign tourists. “The double tracks are expected to open in 2022,” Mr Worawut said. The double-track upgrade between Nakhon Pathon to Hua Hin is 33% completed, whereas works on Hua Hin-Prachuap Khiri Khan and Prachuap Khirikhan-Chumphon sections have progressed by 30% and 19%, respectively, he said.
Editor’s Note: The double track rail project is not to be confused with a future high speed rail project for our region which remains in a planning phase.