By Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said that Thailand's high-speed train project should be designed not only to improve domestic transport but also to boost regional interconnectivity.
According to the blueprint prepared by Thailand's transport ministry, four major high-speed railway will be built to link the capital Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the north, Nakorn Ratchasima in the northeast, Pattaya in the east and Hua Hin in the west.
Abhisit, the leader of the opposition Democrat Party, said in a recent interview with Xinhua the estimated 2 trillion baht (66.6 billion U.S, dollars) project should contribute to the region's concerted efforts in interconnectivity.
He urged the government to review its plan so that the project should not only "connect Thai people to Thai people but Thailand to the neighboring countries."
Major construction of the rail system is scheduled to start later this year until 2020 and the bidding process to select international partners may take place in September.
Speaking highly of China's achievement in developing high-speed train technology over the past years, Abhisit said China would stand out among the potential international bidders which also include Japan, South Korea and France.
"There are plenty of opportunities for everyone to invest in Thailand. But for the rail system, it is obvious that China is ahead of the others since it has proven its capabilities in recent years," Abhisit said. "So it is only logical that we should take advantage of China's expertise."
China has the world's largest high-speed rail network with a length of over 9,300 kilometers. It plans to put 18,000 kilometers of high-speed rail network in operation by 2015.
Chinese Ambassador to Thailand Guan Mu has disclosed that Chinese rail experts had already conducted surveys along route from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiang Mai.
Guan said that Chinese-made high-speed trains running at speed of 255 kilometers per hour would be in service, adding it would take two and a half hours to three hours to traverse the Bangkok- Chiang Mai route.