The Cabinet on Tuesday gave the green light to the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to develop the first phase of the high-speed train project that will eventually link Bangkok with Nong Khai.
The first phase, running 253.3 kilometres from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, has been approved.
The first phase, which will have six stations and entails the reclamation of around 2,809 rai (449 hectares) of land, will take four years to complete.
The cost of the development will be wholly funded by Thailand.
The Cabinet asked the Finance Ministry to seek many options for funding sources, including loans and the issuance of government bonds.
China will provide technology know-how to support the project development, while Thailand will wholly own the right to manage the project and all the stations.
The Kingdom is not granting any right to China to manage the land along the route.
The Transport Ministry estimated that the first-phase route would attract 5,300 passengers daily during the first year of operation in 2021.
They will be served by 11 trains per day, with a journey time of about 90 minutes.
The passenger number is expected to surge to 26,800 a day within the next 30 years, by which time 26 trains will be in service.
The Cabinet also acknowledged the incremental fare structure for the route, starting at Bt80 with an additional rate of Bt1.60 per kilometre.
For example, this would mean a total fare of Bt278 per person for travel from Bangkok to Saraburi.
The first-phase project is divided into two main contracts: civil works construction, and the high-speed train installation and signaling system. The works in the latter contract will be carried out by Chinese engineers.
The Cabinet took three main factors into account in considering the project, including the geo-economic factor.
If it failed to promote the route, the country would lose the chance to connect with China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, spanning from the heart of Asia to Southeast Asia and Europe, the Cabinet decided.
The route will also be connected with those in the planned railway system in the Eastern Economic Corridor and create connectivity between Thailand and the Sub-Mekong countries.