Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Shinkansen
First passenger train along Laos-China railway arrives in Laos, Dili Airport revamp, and news on the North-South express railway project of Vietnam.
Welcome another edition of the Future Southeast Asia Newsletter, and hello to new subscribers via the Travelfish Newsletter!
The format here is that I post a new article at Future Southeast Asia, and the newsletter includes an introduction to the article with some editorial. The newsletter also includes a roundup of other news links related to construction, transport, and infrastructure in Southeast Asia.
It just so happens that this week's topic was inspired by the Travelfish side project at Couchfish. Stuart was crunching the numbers for the Bangkok - Chiang Mai air route, which sent me down a rabbit hole about the proposed Bangkok - Chiang Mai high-speed railway.
While Stuart described me as obsessed with trains, I am not militant about getting the train everywhere if flying is a better option. It just so happens that Bangkok-Chiang Mai is my most flown route (I keep track of my flights). I used to base myself in Chiang Mai, and flying is by far the most convenient option. By comparison, I have travelled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai twice by train, and twice overnight on the way back.
If you are visiting Thailand on holiday then you should absolutely get the train north, and stop at Ayutthaya, Lopburi, and Phitsanulok (for Sukhothai) on the way. For most people though, flying is the preferred option as the train is too slow.
There has been a high-speed railway proposed for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai city pair, using a Shinkansen-style railway co-developed with Japan. That was always going to be too expensive, and the report published by Japan confirmed this.
Thailand asked Japan if they would be co-owners of it, rather than the model that Japan wanted of just providing cheap loans.
Basically, Thailand was angling for a free Shinkansen railway. f you don't ask you don't get, or as marketing gurus say, you miss 100% of the shots you don't make. Who wouldn't want a free Shinkansen, so fair play to Thailand for having a shot.
The fact that Japan wants nothing to do with the business side of it says much about how unprofitable it would be.
Personally, I would love a Shinkansen to Chiang Mai, but I didn’t need a study to tell you that it was going to be too expensive for Thailand.
A better option would be the semi-fast option, like an intercity service in Europe (or the China-Laos Railway). A 4-5 hour journey would make it a competitive alternative to flying. While it would be an hour or so of extra time, I would take that if it meant not having to step foot in Don Muang Airport.
Latest Posts At Future Southeast Asia
“When Indonesia awarded the contract for the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway to a Chinese consortium six years ago, the project was supposed to be completed by 2018 with no financial contributions or guarantees required from the Indonesian government.”
Added to Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway
Added to Trans-Sulawesi Railway
Added to China-Laos railway
“The Government has this month approved a plan to develop nine new railways with a total length of nearly 2,400 kilometers by 2030, including the North-South express railway project.”
Added to North–South express railway Vietnam
On the North-South news page, you can see that this same announcement has been made pretty much every year for the last decade without a single kilometre of line being built. The sight of an electric passenger train rolling into Vientiane last week might have embarrassed the government into actually starting the North-South line.
Another consideration is that Laos could start construction of the Vientiane – Vung Ang Railway at the end of the year, which would mean that Vietnam would have to start their section of the line.
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