Pattaya monorail project still faces hurdles

An artist’s impression of the proposed Pattaya monorail project.

Rather like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, the much anticipated Pattaya monorail project continues to haunt the city’s transport plans. A meeting on June 21, chaired by Pattaya deputy mayor Manote Nongyai, announced yet again a detailed plan to link Pattaya rail station to Bali Hai pier to facilitate the transfer of train tourists once the new hi-speed train from Bangkok to U-Tapao airport is completed. Whenever that proves to be.

Over the past 10 years there have been aspirations to improve the city’s transportation system as the main roads have become increasingly clogged, especially at weekends. Two years ago there was a surge of interest in a cable car project along beach road, submitted by an enterprising Swiss company, but it failed to gain traction with PPP funders (Public and Private Partnership). A public meeting doubted passengers would be happy being chauffeured aloft in small boxes.

Alternative suggestions have promoted trams and railways, both requiring tracks, which would create innumerable problems in an overcrowded city. Not to mention legal disputes as wide stretches of land would be demolished under wildly unpopular compulsory purchase orders. A monorail solution, requiring minimal space vertically and horizontally, would largely bypass such problems (although land appropriation would still be necessary at station locations) even though initial erection costs would be high. The City Hall assessment is 26 billion baht, likely an undershoot.

There is a mountain of detail still to clear. The new Thai Cabinet, once installed, would need to sign off on the proposal and an environmental impact assessment has to be cleared. A major share of the funding would have to come from the international macro-funders of the Eastern Economic Corridor who have already paid for multiple local projects including motorways, beach replenishments and pier reconstruction. Technologically, no decisions have yet been taken about whether the monorail would be propulsion or magnetic based.

City Hall also announced three other monorail projects to connect the central areas with outlying districts, mostly scheduled for completion in the 2030s. The need for solutions to ease Pattaya’s traffic congestion is obvious. The Pattaya railway station – Bali Hai monorail will only help once the Bangkok to U-tapao hi speed railway is up and running. Getting the two projects to go hand in hand is a difficult feat. And one far from resolved.