The Thailand East-South Corridor

A new mega bridge and railway connecting Chonburi to Ranong has been proposed as an alternative to the Thai Canal.

This week I’ve posted two articles that are related to a news story which are better served as separate pieces.

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The Chumphon - Ranong Railway is a proposed branch railway from the Thailand Southern Line, connecting the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea.

The Thai Bridge (Saphan Thai) is a proposed bridge spanning the Bay of Bangkok, connecting Chonburi Province in Eastern Thailand to Phetchaburi Province on the Gulf Coast.

The Chumphon - Ranong railway and Thai Bridge project have been promoted as a new “land bridge” that would connect the Andaman Sea with Laem Chabang Port (the largest port in Thailand).

This East-South corridor is sort of an alternative to the Thai Canal, though it would be of no use for ships heading beyond mainland Southeast Asia.

It is somewhat like the East–West Economic Corridor Railway from Myanmar to Vietnam, in that they both provide a proverbial land bridge between two ports. The East-West plans to have a unified railway line though, while there is no such plan for this East-South link.

I would be surprised if the bridge ever gets built given the enormous expense (29 billion USD). Considering that shipping is only going to save a few hours by building a bridge, it hardly seems worth it. In comparison the Thai Canal will save a few days of travel, but that project has been debated for decades. The money would be better spent on completely untangling the railway system in Bangkok (which is already happening with the new Bang Sue central station).

The bridge would be anywhere from 80 to 100 km, making it by far the world’s longest sea bridge. The current largest bridge is the 55 km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, which was built by the sheer will of the CCP with a bottomless pit of Yuan to bind Hong Kong and Macao closer to the mainland.

The Chumphon-Ranong railway at least makes more sense as it could turn Ranong into a new shipping hub. Rather than sending freight to Laem Chabang it could be sent by rail to Ranong, which could become the port for containers going west.

Another problem with the bridge is that it is only a road bridge with no railway. If they are going to build the Chumphon-Ranong line for freight, then the few hours they win from the bridge short cut will be lost with the time taken to unload containers from rail to road. Again, just fix up the railways going around Bangkok instead.

The railway would also open up tourism on the Andaman Sea side of the Peninsula. For the city of Ranong, it would make it a more appealing location for business if it had a direct train service to Bangkok.

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