Japan, Thailand sign memo on shinkansen project

JIJI, Kyodo

Transport minister Keiichi Ishii and his Thai counterpart, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, signed a memorandum on cooperation on Saturday for a high-speed rail project in Thailand that will adopt Japan’s shinkansen system.

The two countries will start work on creating a basic plan next year after the Japan International Cooperation Agency releases a final report on the results of its feasibility study, which is expected to be finished in about six months.

The planned 670-kilometer-long railway will connect the Thai capital of Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai. The memorandum says the 380-km-long section between Bangkok and Phitsanulok should be built first because demand is expected to be relatively strong.

Japan will also provide technical assistance to promote city development in areas along the railway, which would also help increase passenger numbers.

Furthermore, the two sides agreed to implement containerized transportation and railroad projects in the Thai section of the so-called Southern Economic Corridor. The Thai section connects Kanchanaburi province bordering Myanmar with Sa Kaeo province near Cambodia via Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Bangkok’s newest railway line, the MRT Purple Line, was officially opened to the public on Saturday.

The 23-km elevated rail line runs from Tao Poon Station in Bangkok’s Bang Sue district to Klong Bang Phai station in Nonthaburi province, with trains supplied by a joint venture comprised of Japan’s Marubeni Corp. and Toshiba Corp.

The Purple Line is the first Bangkok rail network to implement Japanese rolling stock, with a total of 63 carriages imported from Japan.

Ishii, who attended the ceremony to mark the line’s opening, told reporters that he feels the new line will “contribute to the development of Bangkok” and be “a symbol of the cooperative relationship between Japan and Thailand.”

Construction of the line began in 2009 with the aim of easing traffic congestion in Bangkok and a neighboring province, where several government agencies are located.