High-ranking members of the Democrat Party recently convened at the Thai-Japanese Youth Centre in Din Daeng district of Bangkok to discuss their vision for Thailand’s future transportation infrastructure. During the meeting, Samart Ratchapolsitte, a deputy party leader, announced plans to prioritize the expansion of inter-provincial railways and high-speed rail lines if they manage to join a coalition government after the upcoming election.
Ratchapolsitte stressed the urgency of reducing Thailand’s logistics costs, which currently stand at around 14% of the nation’s GDP. In contrast, countries with well-developed railway systems usually experience logistics costs falling within the 8-9% range. Ratchapolsitte also pointed out that Thailand’s current reliance on cars and trucks for transportation is hindering the nation’s progress. Rather, he feels that investing more in railway systems would provide a cheaper and more efficient mode for transportation.
As part of the Democrat Party’s grand plan for transportation, they aim to support the State Railway of Thailand’s ambitious expansion project to extend double-track railway construction to cover 61 provinces, up from 47. Ratchapolsitte envisions that by 2027, there will be seven double-track railway lines spanning a total of 4,722 kilometers, which would help bring down logistics costs to 12% of GDP.
If the Democrat Party is granted oversight of the Transport Ministry in the next government, Ratchapolsitte assures that both large and medium-sized contractors will have opportunities to place bids for megaprojects. Currently, the Transport Ministry is overseen by the Bhumjaithai Party.
Moreover, the Democrat Party is pushing for the completion of the high-speed rail line connecting Nong Khai to Nakhon Ratchasima within the next six years. Ratchapolsitte suggests that the project could attract as many as 2 million Chinese travelers per year into Thailand via the high-speed rail line that connects to Laos. In addition, the party has several plans to develop the areas surrounding high-speed train stations into smart and low-carbon cities.
Ratchapolsitte believes that improved transportation infrastructure in regional cities will ultimately generate more revenue for local communities and businesses. For instance, in Bangkok, the Party is considering endorsing a 50-baht one-day pass on the BTS to attract more daily commuters, as the current number of BTS passengers is surprisingly lower than it should be.
Pisit Lee-ahtam, a former deputy finance minister and the president of the Democrats’ economic policy team, emphasized the importance of turning Hat Yai in Songkhla into a new financial hub for the region. He suggested that a high-speed train connection between Hat Yai and Singapore would be crucial for achieving this goal. “The Democrat Party wins most constituency seats in the South, therefore, we have to push this policy as much as we can,” he explained. However, Pisit also cautioned that there must be a revision of the tax law and the establishment of a data center to support Hat Yai’s growth as a financial hub.