15 July 2016: The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has taken delivery of the first 39 brand new train carriages, as the first tranche of a larger order of 115 new carriages from the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation and China CNR Corporation. The Governor of the State Railways of Thailand, Wuthichart Kalyanamitra, has announced that the reminder of the new rolling stock will be delivered by the end of September (presumably this year, 2016).
Use of the New Carriages
The plan is to use these first 39 new carriages, along with new express engines, on the popular Bangkok to Chiang Mai route starting from August 2016.
Even more ambitiously the plan is introduce the new carriages on the other three major long distance train routes (Bangkok to Hat Yai, Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani and Bangkok to Nongkhai) and retire all the existing long distance train carriages by the end of 2017.
About the New Carriages
These modern carriages will meet higher safety standards with CCTV and sealed compartments between carriages. The seats are more airline seats and there will be display screens in most passenger carriages. The toilets and restaurant cars will also be a big improvement on the current rolling stock.
Were this not enough, the new trains should also be quicker with the SRT predicting that the train travel time between Bangkok and Chiang Mai will be reduced by between 90 minutes and 3 hours.
Analysis of This Development
This upgrade of the rolling stock, as anyone who travels regularly on Thai trains will tell you, is long overdue. Many of the older carriages now look old and quite possibly do not meet the highest safety standards. The move is a welcome step forward for both local and foreign travellers in Thailand. However, one noteworthy, and rather surprising, feature of this major overhaul in Thailand’s long distance train services is that the SRT has committed to keeping the ticket prices on the new trains the same as on the old trains. This is going to put more pressure on the already over stretched finances of the SRT because it may be difficult to offset the cost of the purchase of the new carriages against an increase in revenue if there is no change in the price of a ticket. Let’s hope these new carriages do not come at the expense of a reduction in spending on other aspects of Thailand’s railway network such as track maintenance.
Update on Thailand’s New Trains
For more information see our follow up news item of the 19th November 2016 about the first two train services on the Northern Line to make use of the new carriages.