BANGKOK, March 19, 2010 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors yesterday approved $79.3 million in additional finance to support Thailand’s continuing effort to improve the country’s highway network.
The loan — the first to Thailand since 2003 — will support the widening of five national highway sections, with a total length of 216 kilometers. The expansion will help Thailand accommodate increased traffic in some of the growing areas in its eastern, northeastern, and southern regions. Once completed, the widened highways are expected to help reduce the burden on road users, such as travel time and vehicle operating costs, by at least 10 percent.
“Reducing the cost burden on road users can help bring down logistics costs and increase Thailand’s competitiveness in the long run,” said Annette Dixon, the World Bank Country Director for Thailand. “We know that countries that have invested in infrastructure have reaped the benefits by increasing their economic growth as well as their position in the global market.”
A small part of the loan will also support an initiative to pilot a new type of infrastructure investment in Thailand—PPP or Public-Private Partnership—in which the public and private sectors share the financing, risks and benefits of infrastructure development.
This loan builds on the 2003 World Bank lending in support of the Thailand Highways Management Project, designed to help the country improve the management and the maintenance of national highways, as well as to increase road safety around the country.
One of the four components of the 2003 project, the Highway Upgrading and Intersection Improvement component, supported the widening of 73 kilometers of selected two-lane highways, as well as the construction of three overpasses at accident-prone and traffic-heavy junctions. This component was designed to assist the Department of Highways in implementing the nationwide program to widen national two-lane highways to four lanes. The program, originally approved by the cabinet in 1993, aims to improve the transport efficiency and facilitate economic growth.
After the work under the Highway Upgrading and Intersection Improvement was completed, further World Bank support for nationwide highway expansion program was requested, hence the additional financing announced today.