A new central hub for Thailand’s fast developing rail network is being constructed in the capital Bangkok.
It will be called the Bangkok Grand Central Station and it is now rapidly taking shape. Some of the 26 platforms have already been built and soon the tracks will follow.
The station will bring together mass transit, long-distance trains, and a future high-speed network being built in partnership with China.
The State Railway of Thailand said that two-third of the construction work is complete, and the station should be operational by 2020.
The station, costing almost 500 million U.S. dollars, stands on four levels: a subway system that will bring passengers from across the capital, a concourse for buying tickets and refreshments, and two tiers of the track one for standard trains and one exclusively for the high-speed network.
At the same time, engineers are constructing the first high-speed route from Bangkok to the border with Laos, a joint scheme with China, as part of China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure project.
So far there is just a small test section being laid out, but both China and Thailand have pledged to speed up the development.
Once completed, the Grand Central will become the largest railway station in Southeast Asia.
It will replace the existing mainline station at Hua Lamphong, which was built in a classical Renaissance style more than a hundred years ago. Hua Lamphong is a popular landmark and will be preserved as a railway museum.
Dr. Ruth Banomyong, an associate professor of international studies and transport management at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, said: “We need something new, Hua Lamphong is nice. It’s classic but it doesn’t serve the purpose to say that Thailand is moving toward this new century that we are in, so I think from a symbolic perspective it is very important.”
Economists hope the China-Thai high-speed network will attract investment right along its 600-kilometre route, bringing prosperity to the under developed north and northeast.
That would help lift Thailand out of its so-called “middle-income” trap, in which an economy grows to a certain point, but then stalls.
Many predict the Grand Central Station will prompt the construction of thousands of new offices and homes, creating a brand new business district for northern Bangkok.