The Transport Ministry says Thailand has not decided whether to lower the maximum speed of the 670km Thai-Japanese high-speed train route stretching from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

It will discuss the issue with the Japanese government early next month.

The ministry said the meeting, which will zero in on a profitable pattern of the train’s operation, was scheduled for Feb 6.

The statement was released after Japanese media reported that the Bangkok-Chiang Mai Shinkansen-like bullet train could have its maximum speed lowered in a bid to reduce the cost, which contradicts a Japanese study.

In the statement, the ministry insisted it was in a process to consider whether the train’s speed should be lowered due to the high cost of the system.

In December, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed the ministry to study the possibility of curbing the maximum speed to 180-200kph after a Japanese feasibility study suggested the original goal of 300kph would require a budget of 420 billion baht.

Thailand signed a memorandum of cooperation for the project with Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure Transport and Tourism in May, 2015.

According to the Transport Ministry, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) later conducted a study on the first phase of the high-speed train, from Bangkok to Phitsanulok, in December 2015 and completed it in November last year.

The study focuses on two issues: A 380km rail route linking Bang Sue station in Bangkok to Phitsanulok, and the train system’s technology, its top speed of 300kph similar to that of the Shinkansen in Japan.

The train track is 1.435 metres in width. There will be seven stations — Bang Sue, Don Muang, Ayutthaya, Lop Buri, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit and Phitsanulok — along the route.

The whole trip will take about three and a half hours. The fare for travelling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or vice versa will cost just over 1,000 baht.

According to the Jica’s study, the construction of the Bangkok-Phitsanulok section will cost about 276.2 billion baht. The service will handle a maximum 29,000 passengers per day after its launch in 2025, with this expected to increase to 50,000 per day by 2055.

If there is land development along the route, the train will handle 29,000 passengers per trip per day in 2025.

News Reporter

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