Khon Kaen set to become transport hub

by Reprintted from Bangkok Post

The second phase of the Sino-Thai high-speed railway (HSR) will help Khon Kaen realise its potential as a transport hub in the Northeast, according to provincial governor Somsak Jangtrukul.

“When the high-speed trains are ready to roll, Khon Kaen will be [the region’s] public transportation hub,” said the governor at the second public hearing for the 365-kilometre long rail route, which will link Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai through Khon Kaen and Udon Thani.

The first hearing was held in Nakhon Ratchasima on Monday. Another forum is scheduled in Udon Thani today and in Nong Khai tomorrow.

About 500 people attended the second hearing on Tuesday, which was held at the Khon Kaen International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Khon Kaen already has a large elevated train station, as well as a fully operational double-track railway which serves both passenger and cargo services.

Several new road projects are currently under construction and the airport is currently being expanded, the governor added.

“The expansion will increase Khon Kaen airport’s annual passenger handling capacity to 5 million, with six new aprons currently being built in addition to the five already in operation,” said Mr Somsak.

According to Mr Somsak, the second phase of the project will accelerate the development of a rail transport network across key provinces in the Northeast, which will in turn spur businesses located along the high-speed rail route.

Phase 2 of the project will see the construction of five stations along the line, namely Bua Yai Station in Nakhon Ratchasima, Ban Phai Station in Khon Kaen, Khon Kaen Station in the city centre, Udon Thani Station and Nong Khai Station.

The line will have the standard track gauge of 1.435 metres and a total of 241 crossings, said Mr Somsak.

Once completed, a trip from Bangkok to Nong Khai will only take about three hours and 15 minutes.

Design and feasibility studies for the second phase of the project, which began last year, are due to be completed next year, said Mr Somsak.

The Northeast’s cultural identity will be incorporated into the design of the stations, he said.

The hearing in Khon Kaen came after the board of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) last month approved the draft of the so-called “Contract 2.3” with China, paving the way to begin construction of the high-speed train project.

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