STATE RAILWAY of Thailand expects to start calling tenders in May for double-tracking of five main lines totalling 757route-km at a cost of US$1·5bn.

According to SRT Governor Chitsanti Dhanasobhon, the investment forms part of a programme to improve freight train competitiveness and will see maximum axleloads increased from 15 to 20 tonnes. The US$138m doubling of the 87 km Sattahip line from Lat Krabang container terminal to Laem Chabang port via Chachoengsao will get underway first, as this has already been authorised; Chitsanti expects this work to be completed within two years.

Detailed design is underway on the other four projects, so that SRT can apply for government authorisation later this year. The first of these schemes covers a further 150 km of the Northern main line beyond the present end of double-track at Lop Buri as far as Nakhon Sawan. The second is a 300 km section of SRT’s southern main line from Prachuap Khiri Khan to Surat Thani.

The third would double-track a 90 km section of the Bangkok belt line between Chachoengsao in the east and Kaeng Khoi in the northeast. The fourth scheme runs for 130 km from Kaeng Khoi to the junction of the Nong Khai and Ubon Ratchasima lines at Nakhon Ratchasima. SRT hopes this will cut the journey time for freight trains between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima to under 2h 30min.