The funds will be used primarily to launch the country's high-speed rail programme. The first phase consists of four lines radiating from Bangkok southwest to Hua Hin, southeast to Pattaya, northeast to Nakhon Ratchasima, and north to Phitsanulok.

Mr Chula Sookmanob, director of the government's transport and traffic policy and planning office, says the government wants to invite bids for the construction of the four lines in September with a view to opening the first section to Pattaya in 2018, and completing the other three lines in 2019.

Long term, the government would like to extend the Hua Hin line south to Hat Yai near the Malaysian border, the Nakhon Ratchasima line north to Nong Khai on the border with Laos, and the Phitsanulok line north to Chiang Mai.