Within the next five years, it will be finally possible to go through Northern Thailand by rail as the Thai government officially launching a new rail route. The future line will also help travellers to access easier to Laos as the small town of Ban Huak is to be turned before next year into a permanent cross-border checkpoint.
Ban Huak in the Northern province of Phayao in Thailand is already an important trading area towards Laos with one=day commuters passing regularly the border between both countries. It is estimated that over 215,000 people use Ban Huak today to go from one country to another. Ban Huak will however further gain in importance as the Thai government is looking at upgrading the cross-border checkpoint to a permanent one, allowing also international travellers to cross into Lao PDR in Sayabouri Province in Lao PDR. The project to turn Ban Huak/Khop (Laos) into a permanent border checkpoint started back to 2015 but serious talks about the upgrading of the area resumed only this year.
“The checkpoint’s proposed permanent status will spur a vast commercial improvement for locals,” said to Thai newspaper Kowit Chaimuang, the chairman of traders in Chiang Kham district, in Phayao. “The road connecting Sayaboury to Phayao is extremely convenient, so locals are obviously eager to see the checkpoint’s status change,” he said. “We will see locals from nearby areas travel to Phu Sang and Chiang Kham to buy several kinds of goods, which will help commerce along the border to flourish. And it will help also promoting both domestic and international tourism.”
The choice for the small city is nothing but a coincidence. The small town is effectively deemed to become the end station of a future rail line which will run all across Northern Thailand. The Thai government wants effectively to facilitate further movements between Northern Thailand and neighbouring countries such as Lao PDR and Myanmar.
It officially launched in early August the construction of a new rail link across Northern Thailand. The future line will cover a distance of 323km double-track railway from Den Chai in Phrae Province to Chiang Khong in Loei Province, near to the Mekong River. The government is decided to speed up the construction of the line which could enter into service two years earlier than originally planned. It means the rail link is likely to become operational by 2023.
Local people have been waiting more than 50 years for the rail line, which will link four provinces – Phrae, Lampang, Phayao and Chiang Rai – and have 26 stations and four tunnels but the double-track route has been facing continual delays.
The route would at Den Chai station in Phrae, connecting to the present northern train line from Hua Lamphong in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It then travels north, entering Lampang through the tambon Mae Tip station in Ngao district. Further north, the line enters Phayao through Phayao University station. After reaching Chiang Rai through Pa Daet district station, it will terminate in Chiang Khong district, which borders Laos on the Mekong River.
According to experts, the route could see a traffic of 5,600 passengers a day once it opens. This could grow to 9,800 passengers per day by 2052.
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