Rail to Thailand

Trends and opportunities

The market

Thailand is situated in a strategic location at the centre of the ASEAN region where the major form of transport is by road. This reliance on road transport has resulted in urban congestion, energy inefficiencies, traffic safety problems and environmental challenges.

Thailand is keen to overcome these challenges by developing its rail system to support the continued growth of goods transport and also increase the number of passengers regularly using rail on urban and inter-city networks.

Thailand currently has around 4,180km of rail tracks connecting 46 provinces. The country has three types of rail tracks:

  • single tracks account for 3,901km (93.3 per cent of total railways)
  • 220km of dual tracks (5.3 per cent)
  • 59km of triple tracks (1.4 per cent).

Rail Infrastructure Development Plan

In 2014, the Thai Government announced a massive infrastructure and logistics development program with five key strategies:

  • intercity rail networks
  • public transport networks and services
  • enhancing connectivity with neighbouring countries
  • increasing water transport networks
  • enhancing air transport capability.

Under this plan, a total of 20 mega projects worth Bht1.76 trillion are to be completed by 2020. The majority of the budget is devoted to railway development, covering dual track railways, high speed trains, urban networks expansion rail and construction of new lines.

This development plan also reflects Thailand’s vision of becoming a key strategic and logistics gateway to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

Key Rail Projects:

  • Meter-gauge dual track railways
  • Standard-gauge, dual track railways between Bangkok and industrial and tourist areas
  • Expansion of urban mass rapid transit in Bangkok and suburbs
  • The Thai Government aims to increase the rail’s share of freight transport from two per cent to eight per cent by 2020, plus reduce its dependency on fossils fuel and lower gas emissions
  • There are also plans for public transport development in the major provinces of Phuket (south), Khon Kaen (northeast) and Chiang Mai (north).


  • Rail modernisation and track rehabilitation. Thailand’s rail lines have long been in need of an upgrade, particularly for rail junction and links, as well as tunnels in order to prevent bottlenecks.
  • Rail safety has become a critical issue following a number of derailments over the last couple of years and several accidents caused by the lack of signalling equipment at various roads and railways junctions.
  • Freight and heavy haul. Australia is well known among Thai rail academics and industry contacts for its experience and capabilities.
  • Infrastructure and system development. Joint venture partners or sub-contractors with local construction firms for railway lines and tracking systems.
  • Manufacturing, component supplies and related services. Technology transfer of manufacturing techniques is also an option to gain entry into the market.
  • Education and skills development of rail engineers and technicians to meet the increasing demand for expertise in Thailand.
  • Contribution to Academia and Knowledge Capacity Building activities may lead to business and commercial outcomes.

Funding arrangements for Infrastructure Investment Plans

  • Proposed financing sources are the annual budget, government borrowing, revenue from State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) and Private-Public Partnerships (PPP).
  • Thailand’s PPP Law has been in effect since 4 April 2013 and aims to encourage more private participation and involvement; upgrade the administration of government projects; and stimulate the use of more innovative technology.
  • A series of infrastructure funds by the Ministry of Finance to seek private investment for public infrastructure projects.

Key rail operators are:

  • SRT is Thailand’s largest state enterprise, responsible for national rail network and the Airport Rail Link (eight stations).
  • The underground system is operated by Bangkok Metro Company Limited (BMCL), while whole project investments were shared by Mass Rapid transit Authorities (MRTA) and BMCL.
  • Bangkok’s Skytrain (BTS) is operated by Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Co., Ltd. (BTSC) under a concession granted by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
  • MRT Purple Line is a rapid transit line of the Bangkok MRT for the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region and Nonthaburi Province. This Purple Line is operated by Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited (BEM).

Competitive environment

Current major suppliers for urban rail and SRT include Siemens, GE, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Alstom and Bombardier. The Thai Government have had discussions and agreements with China and Japan on the joint construction and operation of railway lines.

Tariffs, regulations and customs

The Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) has eliminated the majority of Thai tariffs on goods imported from Australia. The reduction of Thailand's previously high tariff barriers (for some goods, up to 200 per cent) is a significant win for Australian businesses, opening up a range of export opportunities in Southeast Asia's second-largest economy. TAFTA also improves the environment for bilateral services trade and investment.

Another agreement is the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA). The countries of ASEAN - Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - constitute one of the most dynamic economic regions in the world.

Marketing your products and services

Local agents/distributors are required to bid for projects.

Links and industry contacts

Government, business and trade resources

Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Co., Ltd. (BTSC)
Bangkok Metro Public Co., Ltd. (BMPCL)
OTP Office of Transport and Traffic Planning (OTP)
State Railway of Thailand (SRT)
The Ministry of Transport (MoT)


The Bangkok Post
The Nation

Australian resources

Australian Embassy Bangkok
Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce

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