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Transport in Thailand

MapSquare Down Arrow Icon Roads and Highways
Square Down Arrow Icon Urban Transport
Square Down Arrow Icon Rural Transport
Square Down Arrow Icon Railways

Square Down Arrow Icon Inland Waterways
Square Down Arrow Icon Ports and Shipping

Square Down Arrow Icon Air Transport

Thailand’s transport issues have become more pronounced with rising energy costs. With an increased focus on intra-regional trade, the Government is looking at a range of projects to enhance the efficiency, productive use, and management of the road network. The projects will:

  1. Support the commercialization of the road sector by introducing better business principles and increased private sector participation in the delivery and management of roads
  2. Strengthen the operations of the Department of Highways through improved use of information technology and computerization
  3. Help preserve road assets through sustainable maintenance programs including long-term performance based contracts; and
  4. Improve competition and transparency in the award of contracts by using e-procurement.

Part of the strategy reflects the role of Thailand as a critical player in the Asian Highway Network which will make it possible for people to drive from Singapore to Kunming, and from Yangon to Ho Chi Minh City, all via Thailand.

Urban transport, especially in Bangkok, is a continuing important issue. Bangkok’s new mass-transit system, the subway, is running smoothly. The subway complements the existing skytrain and is linked to it by three interchange stations at important junctions.

As part of a 500 billion baht (US$12 billion) project to solve the traffic problems in Bangkok, the Government of Thailand is planning to expand the subway and skytrain throughout the entire city, including its numerous suburban districts. Seven new routes totalling 291 km will be added to the present network of 24 km of skytrain and 20 km of subway.

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Black arrowThailand at a Glance
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Roads and Highways

Roads have been the core transportation in Thailand. The highway network measures some 63,062 km; about 97.5 percent of which is paved. These roads and highways are under the responsibility of the Department of Highways, who build and maintain highways throughout the country connecting to neighboring countries. The Department of Highways is also the main government agency, who drafts and proposes the highway development plans and set standards for the construction of highways.

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Urban Transport

Road transport is the main transportation means in Bangkok, and the city is infamous for its traffic jams.  The average vehicle speed during rush hours is 17.2 km/h in the morning and 24.2 km/h in the evening, which have remained so at least for the past 6 years.

Thailand TransportWhile there are currently two mass transit lines (a subway and the Skytrain) in Bangkok, the Government plans to invest about US$13.8 billion over the period 2006-2012 on the mass rail transit in Bangkok and the vicinity.

Seven new routes totalling 291 km will be added to the present network of 24 km of skytrain and 20 km of subway. This expansion reflects the government’s plan of having a subway or skytrain station every 500 metres in the city and linking the inner city area to the suburban provinces of Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani. In effect 4.5 million people and thousands of visitors will be able to use the mass transit system to move seamlessly through the city.

These projects are known as the “mega-projects” due to the size of its financing. Several other several important aspects must also be considered, such as technical, administrative, institutional, and regulatory issues, including the interconnection system among them. Quite a number of plans and studies have been done, so the actual progress and/or the degree of the additional mass transit development now lie pretty much in the political realm.

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Thailand TransportRural Transport

The rural road network measures some 35,000 km, with about 82 percent of which is paved. The Department of Rural Roads of the Ministry of Transport takes care of the maintenance of all the rural roads in Thailand.

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Thailand TransportAll railways are under the care of the State Railway of Thailand. Out of 5,382 km of rail, about 4,044 km are utilized. And, about 80 percent of the tracks are single track. Each year there are about 70 million passengers.

The four main transit routes are the North, the Northeast, the East, and the South, radiating from the hub at Bangkok Station or Hua Lamphong.

Track doubling and rehabilitation are major components of the State Railway of Thailand's 30-year development plan. The track doubling activities cover about 349 km, while track rehabilitation now covers about 791 km.

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Inland Waterways

Thailand TransportThere are about 4,000 km of inland waterways. About 3,700 km has a navigable depth of about 0.9 meter or more in a year.

In Bangkok, Chao Phraya River and Khlong Saen Saeb are the major means of water-transportation. Including express boats, long-tail boats, river-crossing ferries, there are more than 360,000 passengers per day.

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Ports and Shipping

Thailand’s existing main ports are in Bangkok, Laem Chabang, Ranong, Phuket, and Songkhla. The main ports are at Bangkok (Klong-toey) and Laem Chabang. There were about 47.7 million tons of imports and exports passing through these two ports in 2004.

The government also plans to add two new strategic ports: one is the Pak Bara Port in Satool province, and another is a new port in Songkhla. The plan also includes the rail and road links between the two ports, so it becomes a new distribution channel from East Asia to Middle East, Africa, and Europe. However, the plan is yet to be finalized.

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Air Transport

Thailand TransportThailand has five main international airports (Bangkok, Chiangmai, Chiangrai, Hat-Yai, and Phuket) and more than 100 airports serving domestic flights. That excludes the under-construction Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is expected to begin its operation in late 2006.

The amount of goods going through air transport measured about 34 million ton-kilometers in 2004. The five major airports can serve 17,800 international passengers per hour and 10,330 domestic passengers per hour.

The new Suvarnabhumi Airport will add 120 parking bays (currently the five airports have 179 bays in total) and will be able to handle 45 million passengers and 3 million tons of cargo per year. The airport can be accessed through the Bangkok-ChonBuri Motorway, 11 city bus routes, and the under-construction express rail link.


Black arrowTale of Three Cities: Urban Rail Concessions in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Manila (255kb pdf)

More Information:
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 Country Development Partnerships
blue arrow Millennium Development Goals
blue arrow Country Website

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