Following several public hearings, the government has announced that the Japanese-funded hi-speed train, linking Thailand’s three principal airports, will be operational in 2023. The 200-billion investment project will link Don Muang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao, with intervening stops including Pattaya.
The train route of 193km will run from Bangkok through Samut Prakan, Chachoengsao and Chonburi and terminate at Rayong. The project is part of a plan to establish transport links across the Eastern Economic Corridor which is attracting huge foreign investment. Bullet trains in Thailand were first mooted in 2010 but have been greatly favoured by the current, military-installed government.
The inclusion of Pattaya railway station in the 215 billion baht project – anticipated by the fact that it is prominently displayed on the overhead signs for the recently-opened Sukhumvit road tunnel – has come as a relief to business owners in the resort. Currently, there is no regular public transport link between Pattaya and Rayong’s U-tapao airport with private taxis and occasional minibuses having a near monopoly.
The State Railway of Thailand estimates that over 100,000 people daily will use the City Line route, which will connect Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi airports, and a further 65,000 travelling between Bangkok and Rayong. The hi-speed trains will run at 250km per hour on 1.4-metre standard gauge tracks. Ticket prices will start at 20 baht with an additional 1.8 baht per km. The cost for an entire-route single ticket would be less than 400 baht.
At the public hearings, the issue was raised whether poorer Thais would be able to afford the fares. But there will be a non-bullet train service available at a cheaper rate which stops at more stations between the metropolis and Rayong. Another concern was that walls of sound with absorbing materials be built to reduce any noise pollution and to deal with copious dust.
There will be a total of eight elevated stations: Don Muang, Bang Sue, Makkasan, Chachoengsao, Chonburi, Sri Racha, Pattaya and Rayong. The other two stations will be underground – Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao. The non-bullet train service may make additional stops. The new services will be available for both passengers and small freight.
There are no plans to move the existing Pattaya railway station from its hub near Siam Country Club Road. It has earlier been suggested that the city authorities introduce an overhead electric rail passenger car service to link the station with downtown areas and Beach Road. However, the expense involved has shelved this notion for the time being.
Pattaya currently receives around 12 million tourists a year, the majority being Chinese and a growing number arriving and departing on charter flights at U-tapao airport which is currently undergoing redevelopment. This number is expected to triple once the bullet train is operational.