Another High-Speed Train Project in the Pipeline in ASEAN

A coach of SRT Shuttle between Hat Yai and Padang Besar

Malaysia and Thailand announced during a recent summit to launch a feasibility study for a high-speed link from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok.

Since December 2015, twice a day, a shuttle train leaves Hat Yai rail station in Southern Thailand to go to Padang Besar. The 50-km ride takes 50 minutes. Boarding the train, run by SRT, is shocking. Many Thai trains are in an incredible sorry state, with broken windows, half destroyed seats, and broken toilets. Fortunately the ride takes  only 50 min. But it tells a lot about the rail conditions on Thailand side. In fact, as soon as Padang Besar station is reached—on the Malaysian side—and immigration formalities expediated, Kommuter Train and Electric Train Services are available to Butterworth (Penang) and Kuala Lumpur. By contrast these spotless modern looking trains cover the 75km distance from the border to Kedah’s capital Alor Setar in just 35 minutes while the 165-km distance to Butterworth in the State of Penang will take less than two hours.

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A KTM Commuter Train linking Padang Besar to Butterworth, Penang

Thailand has a huge problem with its train system. Thailand State Railway tickets are ridiculously cheap, but for that price train passengers must cope with a totally dilapidated rail infrastructure. Now, both Thailand and Malaysia are looking at opening a high-speed train link between their respective capitals.

During an official meeting between the Prime Ministers of both countries—Malaysia’s Najib Razak and his Thai counterpart General Prayut Chan-o-cha—both governments agreed to study the possibility of a high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Relevant agencies will begin preliminary discussions on the possible link.

“This can further improve connectivity between Malaysia and Thailand, and subsequently economic cooperation between the two countries,” declared Najib. PM Prayuth indicated that Thailand is ready to look into the study of the HSR, which he said could help extend Thailand’s connectivity downwards to Singapore.

The 1,460-km link between both capitals would complement the proposed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR. The high speed train link from KL to Singapore is due to be completed by 2026 and would link both cities in just 90 minutes. With trains running at an average speed of 220 km/hour, a high-speed rail link between both capitals would be covered in approximately seven hours time. The distance by train is currently covered in approximately 32 hours.