Logistics system proves a factor of improved commercial and investment competitiveness for every business as it constitutes the core cost for operators in the agricultural, industrial and service sectors. This is even more evident considering the repercussions of fossil fuel energy crisis represented by oil prices on the global economy. Thus, streamlining logistics management has become something worth considering. There are multiple approaches to achieve this, be it reducing dead mileage or dead heading through backhaul management, using alternative energy in lieu of conventional fossil fuels or using GPS systems to plan transport routes, among others. At any rate, one should keep in mind that well-analyzed and properly chosen mode of transport, be it by land, by water or by rail, befitting the natures of goods and/or business needs is also a means to achieve ‘justified’ logistics costs. Still, Thailand’s infrastructure is not quite yet conducive to effective transport modes as operators might expect. Therefore, logistics costs in Thailand seem to still be on the high side in comparison with those in her trading partner countries.
Rail freight transport came into existence after WWII (in the reign of King Chulalongkorn, Rama V). The first line, from Bangkok to Samut Prakan Province, covering a distance of 21 km was launched in 1886. Inauguration of rail services on the Bangkok – Ayutthaya line covering a distance of 71 km was held on March 26, 1896, the date which was officially declared later as the official State Railways Day to commemorate its establishment. Rail freight transport enables transport of large volumes of goods per trip, thereby causing transportation cost per unit to be lower than that incurred via other transport modes as well as less pollution than transport by road. Goodsmost popularly transported by rail usually are of low value but have heavy weight such as cement and petroleum products. The major drawbacks to rail freight transport, however, are the long time it takes to travel and also the need for high-impact resistant packaging materials to cope with repeated loading/unloading occurring at the train station and destination station. Most importantly, limitations as regards railroad tracks (limited routes) are a cause for less reliability on the part of rail freight transport in comparison with other transport modes as priority has to be given to passengers rather than goods.
- Northeastern Line to Ubon Ratchathani Province (Ubon Ratchathani Train Station in Warin Chamrap District), 575 km from Bangkok, and Nong Khai Province plus a connection from Nong Khai to Thanalaeng Station (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), a total distance of 627.5 km
- Northern Line to Chiang Mai Station, Chiang Mai Province, and Sawankhalok Station, Sukhothai Province, 751 km from Bangkok
- 3. Southern Line starting from Bangkok Station to Narathiwat Province (Su-ngai Kolok Station in Su-ngai Kolok District), covering a distance of 1,159 km from Bangkok, and Songkhla Province (Padang Besar Station), 974 km from Bangkok. From here, a line branches to connect with the Malaysian railway to Singapore. The main line also branches to Trang Province (Kantang Station, Kantang District), 850 km from Bangkok, and Nakhon Si Thammarat Province (Nakhon Si Thammarat Station), 816 km from Bangkok
- Eastern Line to Sa Kaeo Province (Aranyaprathet Station), 255 km from Bangkok, and Rayong Province at Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate (Map Ta Phut Station), 200 km from Bangkok
- Western Line from Thon Buri Station to Kanchanaburi Province (Namtok Station, Sai Yok District), 194 km from Bangkok, and Suphan Buri Province (Suphan Buri Station), 157 km from Bangkok
- Mae Klong Line covering a distance of 31 km between Wongwian Yai Station and Mahachai Station and a distance of 34 km between Ban Laem Station and Mae Klong Station
Despite the rail routes covering all regions of the country, limitations pertaining to rail freight transport in Thailand remain to be tackled due to a series of hindering factors, be they a scarcity of locomotives or certain regulations not being conducive to business operations. Therefore, business operators must closely keep abreast of development projects the government has decided to implement because the modes of transport, be they by land, by water, by air or by rail, are factors worth the operators’ consideration to ensure transportation-cost effectiveness and, in turn, a logistics system that genuinely contributes to value addition and higher levels of business competitiveness.