News: Work on a high-speed rail project in Thailand is expected to be delayed as conducting an environment impact assessment (EIA) and a public hearing might take a maximum two-year period, following the completion of the project's feasibility study, reports the Nation. This was announced by Chula Sukmanop, inspector-general of the transport ministry and acting director of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP). The OTP has obtained the result of the feasibility study of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai high-speed train route from Japan. However, the China-backed feasibility study for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Nong Khai lines is yet to be received, Sukmanop added. The study is likely to be finished in August 2012, Sukmanop mentioned. The OTP is also gearing up to appoint a consulting company by September 2012 to carry out a study on three more routes - Bangkok-Chiang Mai, Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok-Hua Hin. The OTP is expected to propose several project models to the transport ministry for consideration after collating all project feasibility studies.
BMI View: Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra chose to prioritise the development of a domestic high-speed railway network to major rural areas throughout the country. The first project to be carried out under this new plan is the 745km high-speed railway line between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. In January 2012, the Thai government approved a THB400bn (US$12.6bn) infrastructure development programme for Thailand's northern region, including the railway line.