Light rail leads the way in Khon Kaen

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Chakkra­pan Natanri and An­chalee Kon­grut

Khon Kaen has been cho­sen to be the gov­ern­ment’s model smart city for other prov­inces to learn from. Last Satur­day, Khon Kaen hosted the Smart City Expo 2018, an event de­signed to show­case a va­ri­ety of projects aimed at achiev­ing the goal. Known as the cen­tre of the North­east­ern Re­gion, Khon Kaen — the 9th largest mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the coun­try — is the first prov­ince to hold such an expo in Thai­land.

Jointly held by both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors in the prov­ince, the expo, or­gan­ised at Khon Kaen In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre, in­cluded in­no­va­tive ideas for im­prov­ing the bus and light rail net­works.

The theme of the event was “Be sup­port­ive and move for­ward to­gether”.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter ACM Pra­jin Jun­tong, who presided over the expo, said he was con­fi­dent Khon Kaen would be­come a good model for other prov­inces to fol­low.

One of the prov­ince’s main strengths is the lo­cal ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions’ con­tri­bu­tion to the ef­forts to make the smart city scheme hap­pen.

“These are pieces of work by the Thai peo­ple. The work in­cludes tech­nol­ogy, stud­ies and in­no­va­tions by Khon Kaen that has adopted a smart work ide­ol­ogy,” he said.

“The bus project, for in­stance, will be im­ple­mented next year,” he added.

Khon Kaen’s Smart City devel­op­ment pro­gramme has also been in­cluded in the coun­try’s 12th na­tional so­cial and eco­nomic plan (2017-21).

The pro­gramme calls for the city to dou­ble its an­nual GDP per per­son to US$12,000-$15,000 (394,000-493,000 baht) by 2029 from an av­er­age of $6,000 in 2016.

Khon Kaen has a pop­u­la­tion of

1.8 mil­lion and its GDP was 190 bil­lion baht in 2017.

“The scheme has been cre­ated in the best in­ter­est of the pub­lic,” said

ACM Pra­jin who serves as the chair­man of the gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­tee on the smart city scheme.

The com­mit­tee has re­cently as­signed the Dig­i­tal Econ­omy Pro­mo­tion Agency (Depa) to carry out a logo de­sign con­test for the project.

“To be­come a smart city, a city must ful­fil at least two cri­te­ria: A smart en­vi­ron­ment and ei­ther a smart econ­omy, mo­bil­ity, en­ergy, gov­er­nance, liv­ing or pop­u­la­tion,”

ACM Pra­jin said.

Any cities in­ter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing are re­quired to sub­mit a plan to the gov­ern­ment for con­sid­er­a­tion.

Ap­pli­ca­tions will first be screened by a sub­com­mit­tee be­fore the com­mit­tee makes a fi­nal de­ci­sion as to which cities de­serve to re­ceive full smart city sta­tus.


Rawee Hanpachern, lec­turer on ar­chi­tec­ture at Khon Kaen Univer­sity told the Bangkok Post that the Smart City Expo 2018 is the lat­est ef­fort by the prov­ince to in­vite all sec­tors to work to­gether on the ini­tia­tive.

The first expo in­cludes peo­ple from a broad ar­ray of pro­fes­sions and back­grounds in­clud­ing low-in­come hous­ing com­mu­ni­ties, non-govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion groups, waste re­cy­clers, bi­cy­cle groups and also women’s and chil­dren’s groups.

“We are try­ing to cre­ate a plat­form for all sec­tors to come to­gether to find smart so­lu­tions to man­ag­ing var­i­ous is­sues in the city be­cause a true smart city is not just about build­ing train lines, or im­prov­ing the in­ter­net, it is about man­age­ment so­lu­tions to han­dle re­fusal dis­posal is­sues and im­prov­ing the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment. It can be any­thing, not just in­fra­struc­ture,” he said.

“Af­ter all, a city is all about peo­ple. And a smart city is where smart peo­ple come to­gether to cre­ate bet­ter man­age­ment so­lu­tions,” said Assc Prof Rawee, also a na­tive of Khon Kaen and one of the founders of the Khon Kaen Think Tank (KKTT).

Com­pris­ing na­tives of the city — in­clud­ing suc­cess­ful lo­cal busi­ness­men — the KKTT was es­tab­lished in Jan­uary 2015 and be­came the spear­head for driv­ing ini­tia­tives in the prov­ince.

“What made the Khon Kaen Smart City project so unique and suc­cess­ful was col­lab­o­ra­tion. We have an ac­tive com­mu­nity, who can link with the univer­sity and provin­cial ad­min­is­tra­tions. All the provin­cial gov­er­nors agreed to help us too,” he said. CHAL­LENGES TO SUC­CESS

The gov­ern­ment has wel­comed the Khon Kaen model, but at a lo­cal level, some res­i­dents be­lieve the smart city project ben­e­fits only the elite and wealthy mid­dle class, not peo­ple from all walks of life.

“It will take time to bring ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity on board. It is a long term project, and we need to in­volve all sec­tors. A true smart city does not leave any­one be­hind, and is def­i­nitely not ex­clu­sively for the elite or wealthy,” Dr Rawee said, adding that the KKTT will fo­cus on in­clud­ing peo­ple from all sec­tors to join var­i­ous com­mu­nity-level ini­tia­tives.

An­other ob­sta­cle is that cen­tral gov­ern­ment re­mains re­luc­tant to al­lo­cate ad­min­is­tra­tive power to the prov­ince.

Cur­rently, the KKTT is wait­ing for the gov­ern­ment to give over­all ap­proval to the Khon Kaen Light Rail Tran­sit, the flag­ship ini­tia­tive of the project.


Lo­cal busi­ness groups and the provin­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion joined hands to launch the Khon Kaen Tran­sit Sys­tem Co (KKTS) in 2017.

The only sim­i­lar com­pany in Thai­land is Krungthep Thanakom, launched by the Bangkok Metropoli­tan Ad­min­is­tra­tion (BMA) to op­er­ate tran­sit ser­vices in the cap­i­tal.

The planned 26km light rail net­work from Sam­ran to Tha Phra sub-dis­trict will in­volve the con­struc­tion of 18 to 21 sta­tions, and need two years to com­plete.

Even in these rel­a­tively early days of the project, progress has been made.

Lo­cal busi­ness and provin­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing the five mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the prov­ince, launched the Khon Kaen Tran­sit Sys­tem Co (KKTS) in 2017.

The light rail project has been val­ued at around 15 bil­lion baht.

So far, the Land Traf­fic Man­age­ment Com­mis­sion (LTMC), a na­tional think tank for trans­porta­tion pol­icy, has ap­proved the plan.

All that re­mains is for the cabi­net to ap­prove the devel­op­ment project be­fore bid­ding on the con­struc­tion and run­ning of the rail­way can be­gin.

“Some peo­ple might per­ceive that ur­ban mass tran­sit is cre­ated for only the wealthy or mid­dle class. How­ever, this in­fra­struc­ture when com­pleted will cre­ate a new ecosys­tem for the ur­ban area and bring changes to the way of life for all in the prov­ince,” Dr Rawee said.

We are try­ing to cre­ate a plat­form for all sec­tors to come to­gether to find smart so­lu­tions to man­ag­ing var­i­ous is­sues in the city. LEC­TURER ON AR­CHI­TEC­TURE AT KHON KAEN UNIVER­SITY, ASSOC PROF DR RAWEE HANPACHERN

TRANS­PORT HUB: A dig­i­tal ren­di­tion of the planned Khon Kaen light rail project.

A MODEL FOR OTH­ERS: Deputy Prime Min­is­ter ACM Pra­jin Jun­tong pre­sides over the Smart City Expo 2018 in Khon Kaen on Oct 6.

BUILD­ING FOR THE FU­TURE: The tram project, if ap­proved, will take two years to com­plete, and cost 15 bil­lion baht to build.

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