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

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

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

Rail Infrastructure Development Plan

In December 2016, the cabinet approved a A$ 33.2 bn infrastructure plan for developing 20 infrastructure projects through 2022. This budget comes up on top of a A$ 61bn plan announced in 2015. (Source: Thailand Infrastructure Report Q1 2018 – Business Monitor International P. 14)

The massive development program covers five key strategies as follows:

  • Intercity rail networks
  • Public transport networks and services
  • Enhancing connectivity with neighboring countries
  • Increasing water transport networks
  • Enhancing air transport capability

The majority of the budget is devoted to railway development, covering expansion of Bangkok’s rail transit system, high-speed trains, construction of new railway lines, conversion of existing railways to dual-track and improving connections to neighboring countries.

This development plan 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 (5 projects)
  • Standard-gauge, dual track railways between Bangkok and industrial and tourist areas (4 projects)
  • Expansion of urban mass rapid transit in Bangkok and suburbs (5 lines)
  • High Speed Trains – China and Thailand are planning the A$ 6.9bn, 250 km first phase of a high-speed 873 km railway that will eventually link Bangkok and the Chinese city of Kunming, via a segment in Laos. The Thai government has also promised that a proposed high-speed railway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, a major province in the north of Thailand, will use Japanese bullet train technology (Source: Thailand Infrastructure Report Q1 2018 – Business Monitor International)
  • 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
  • Under Thailand 4.0 policy, the Government is developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) as a modern metropolitan, a hub of trade and investment, a center for regional transportation and logistics, a significant source for human resources, a tourist attraction and most importantly, the most modern Gateway to Asia (Source: The Bangkok Post – BOI’s Incentives in the EEC – 28 February 2017)
  • The EEC’s Land Transportation Development Plan include a new high speed train linking the three main international airports: Don Muang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao; and the double-track rail lines, connecting industrial zones nationwide and also Laem Chabang, Map Ta Phut, and a new Sattahip Deep Sea Port (Source: The Eastern Economic Thailand Office, 27 June 2017)
  • As part of Smart Cities initiatives in Thailand, there are also plans for public transport development (Light Rail Projects) in the major provinces i.e. Phuket (south), Khon Kaen (northeast) and Chiang Mai (north)

Opportunities for Australia

  • Rail modernization 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 signaling equipment at various roads and railways junctions
  • Transport technology and innovations such as Intelligent Transport System (ITS)
  • 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

  • The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is Thailand’s largest state enterprise, responsible for national rail network and the Airport Rail Link, a commuter rail from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to train stations in central Bangkok
  • Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) is the government’s state enterprise responsible for overseeing the operation of the mass rapid transit in Bangkok and its vicinity including in other provinces or between provinces
  • Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited (BEM) is a private transportation company in Thailand. Under 25-year concession agreements with MRTA, BEM operates two metro lines (i.e. the MRT Blue Line and MRT Purple Line). Also BEM won contracts to build or operate three expressways in Bangkok (namely the Si Rat expressway, Si Rat - Outer Ring Road Expressway and Udon Ratthaya Expressway
  • Bangkok’s Skytrain (BTS) is operated by Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Co., Ltd. (BTS) under a concession granted by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA)

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 high speed 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

Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement Portal
Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Co. Ltd (BEM)
Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP)
State Railway of Thailand (SRT)
Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) 
The Ministry of Transport (MoT)


The Bangkok Post
The Nation

Australian resources

Australian Embassy Bangkok
Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce

Please note: This list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only. The content is for information and carries no warranty; as such, the addressee must exercise their own discretion in its use. Australia’s anti-bribery laws apply overseas and Austrade will not provide business related services to any party who breaches the law and will report credible evidence of any breach. For further information, please see foreign bribery information and awareness pack.

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