BANGKOK, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Thailand has planned to run Chinese- made high-speed railway systems designed to have time-saving, inexpensive trains for long-distance commuters shuttling between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai and between the capital and the northeastern province of Nong Khai, a senior official said here on Friday.
Thai Transport Minister Chatchat Sitthipan disclosed that the Thai government has decided to go ahead with the multi-billion-U.S. dollar railway projects under which the so-called Hexie Hao or China Railway Highspeed train system will be used.
Construction of the initial stage of the railway project for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route is scheduled to begin by the middle or second half of next year. The railway project for both routes will be completed until 2015, he said.
Feasibility studies for the train projects have been conducted by Chinese, the transport minister said, adding that China has offered to transfer the railway technology to Thai engineers and other railway personnel.
China's Deputy Railway Minister Lu Chunfang has met with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Thai Government House to discuss the Sino-Thai railway cooperation project for the Bangkok- Chiang Mai route, estimated to cost 10 billion U.S. dollars, and that for the Bangkok-Nong Khai route, estimated to cost 6.6 billion U.S. dollars.
Chatchat said commuters will spend only three and a half hours shuttling between Bangkok and Chiang Mai aboard the high-speed train, compared to a dozen hours currently consumed by a "rapid" train of the State Railway of Thailand.
"The high-speed train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai will run 250 to 300 kilometers per hour through terrains and tunnels in the mountains, particularly those in Uttaradit province, to save the traveling time for daily commuters. Given the short-cut way, that route will be shortened from 753 km to 680 km," said the transport minister.
"The 615-km Bangkok-Nong Khai route will consume no more than three hours on a similar high-speed train," he said.
According to Chatchat, the train fare will be 2.1 baht (7 U.S. cents) per km on a 250-km-per-hour train ride and 2.5 baht (8.3 U. S. cents) per km on a 300-km-per-hour train ride.
A start-up stretch of the Bangkok- Chiang Mai route has been designed to cover a 342-km distance between Bangkok and Pitsanuloak province, lying roughly halfway between the capital and the northern city.
Bang Sue train station in the capital will be upgraded to become a hub for the high-speed train systems.
Importantly, the Chiang Mai railway might be connected with China's southwest city of Kunming and the Nong Khai railway might be linked with a railway system in Vientiane, the Lao capital, the minister said.
The Thai railway system would also be connected with those in Myanmar and Malaysia, he said.