Don't miss investment express, TDRI
Thailand should board the new train of investment in double-track and high-speed railways to transport its economy to a higher plateau, according to the Thailand Development Research Institute.
The independent think tank also urged the Thai, Chinese and Laotian governments to hold talks on linking up their rail networks.
As the government plans to upgrade the country's railway system and extend it to other Asian countries, the country should seek a vision for itself in the next 10-20 years.
The country should not only import technology, locomotives and parts from foreign suppliers, but also look into the possibility of producing some parts of the trains itself.
"We're competitive in the auto and parts industry and we may be able to leverage from the solid base to advance to a high-income country, otherwise we will be trapped as a middle-income country for many years," Chalongphob Sussangkarn, an economist at TDRI, said yesterday.
He led TDRI's study on the economic gains from a rail network connecting with neighbouring countries.
Thailand, China and Laos should sit down and discuss the train route from Kunming in southern China to Vientiane and on to Nong Khai.
The rail link with China has yet to take off due to the slow negotiations between China and Laos.
"To get the project off the ground quickly, I think the three parties should hold talks on the issue," he said.
A rail line already reaches from Nong Khai to Thanalaeng in Laos and the two sides have recently agreed to extend it to Vientiane.
Construction is expected to commence in a few months.
Sumet Ongkittikul, a TDRI research fellow, said the bullet trains and rail linkages with Asean countries are expected to boost border trade, especially with Laos via Mukdahan and Nong Khai in the Northeast of Thailand.
In the 10 years from 2011-21, trade at the Nong Khai checkpoint is expected to nearly quadruple to Bt150 billion from Bt40 billion. At the Chiang Saen border pass in the North, trade is estimated to surge to Bt30 billion from Bt9 billion.
Total border trade with Laos might increase to Bt248.12 billion from Bt69.42 billion, while trade volume would multiply to 6.45 |million tonnes from 1.8 million tonnes.
Trade with Vietnam is estimated to increase to Bt6.82 billion and in volume to 177,000 tonnes from 37,000 tonnes last year.
Border trade with China is forecast to jump to Bt34.95 billion from Bt8.59 billion and by volume to 908,000 tonnes from 223,000 tonnes.