RT Electrified Train Co, the operator of Bangkok's Airport Rail Link (ARL), is ready to manage Thailand's high-speed trains if the government approves the project.
A boy learns about China’s high-speed train service from a Chinese official. China Railways is hosting an exhibition at the Airport Rail Link’s Makkasan station to promote its railway system. The exhibition runs until Nov 25. THANARAK KHOONTON
Chief executive Peerakan Kaewwongwattana said the motors, power supply and track size of the ARL are similar to those of high-speed trains, with only the control system needing to be changed.
The company has 600 engineers trained in China who can learn to operate high-speed trains, while the Education Ministry can work with universities to produce more engineers, he said.
Running at a top speed of 160 km/h, Thailand's ARLs are considered semi-high speed, while high-speed trains can travel faster than 200 km/h.
"The prime minister reiterated she wants the ARL to become a model for high-speed trains," said Mr Peerakan.
China has expertise in track installation in various climates and geographies, as Hainan is hot, while marshland and mountains are also served by trains in the Middle Kingdom, he said.
Changing temperatures and climates can have effects on rail conditions, potentially causing accidents.
Zhou Li, the director-general of China Railway Corporation's science and technology department, said the company is studying routes from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Nong Khai, but the decision lies with the Thai government.
"The project will increase the employment, tourism and happiness of Thais," he said, adding that estimated costs depend on the train speed and geographical details.
The Chinese high-speed rail network covers 9,700 kilometres on 29 routes and is expected to reach 50,000 km by 2020.
A train collision in eastern China in 2011 killed 40 people and raised concerns about the safety standards of Chinese trains.
However, Huang Difu, leader of the China-Thailand Railway Project coordination team at China Railway, insisted his country focuses on safety.
The accident was caused by a lightning strike that damaged the train, he said.
Yin Haihong, a political counsellor at the Chinese embassy, said the plan to barter Thai farm products for Chinese high-speed trains would be the first barter deal that China has made.