8 April 2016: Transport Minister Prajin Juntong today announced that the Japanese Government is interested in a joint investment project with the Thai Government to build a high speed train link for the 700 KM route between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The Bangkok to Chiang Mai route passes through some major Thai towns such Ayutthaya, Lop Buri, Phitsanulok and Nakhon Lampang before terminating in Chiang Mai, which is Thailand’s second city. The line currently has 5 intercity trains a day travelling all the way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and local trains taking commuters to small stations on some sections of the track.
High Speed Trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
The Bangkok to Chiang Mai route is the second route which the Japanese Government has expressed interest in. The other route which they reported to be interested in investing in is the Kanchanaburi to Aranyaprathet/Chonburi line.
The long term plan for this second line is to link the industrial estates on Thailand’s Eastern coast with the Dawei Port (currently under construction) in Myanmar.
High Speed Rail Link from Kanchanaburi to the Cambodian Border
Proposed Japanese involvement in the Kanchanaburi to Aranyapathet and Chonburi route has already caused outrage amongst some groups in Europe, Australia and North American whose citizens died in Japanese POW camps building a never completed railway in the Kanchanaburi area during World War II. The suffering of the Allied POWs was portrayed in the famous film called the Bridge Over The River Kwai. Whether this sways the decision making of the current Thai Government is yet to be seen. The Chinese have also put in a bid to be involved in the construction of High Speed Train lines in Thailand and the Thai Government is not yet giving any indication which of the two bids it prefers.