Foreign Tourists Among Injured in Thai Train Derailment

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Thai railway officials have acknowledged that the country’s train network is suffering from poor maintenance after the sixth serious derailment in less than a year left at least 27 passengers injured, including at least 21 foreign tourists.

Train service between Bangkok and Thailand’s largest northern city, Chiang Mai, was disrupted for at least a day by the latest derailment, which saw all seven cars from a slow-moving train go off the track early Wednesday in the Den Chai district of Phrae province, a mountainous, scenic area about 200 kilometers southeast of Chiang Mai.

None of the 300 passengers were killed, according to State Railway of Thailand. Among the injured foreigners, there were passengers from France, Australia, Spain, the U.S., China, Belgium, New Zealand and Chile, according to a spokesman at the hospital where they were treated.

Officials worked on recovering rail cars and repairing tracks while railway authorities acknowledged that the national train network is showing its age–some parts are more than a century old, and they are subjected to heavy annual rainfall and erosion.

Prapat Chongsanguan, the railway’s governor, said “the rail system has been missing out on improvement and maintenance.” He added that the government has approved some 170 billion baht, or $5.5 billion, for maintenance since 2010.

However, the railway operator said that only about a 10th of that has been received to date.

The rail authority said that since, October 2012, six similar accidents have taken place around the country, but this was the first that involved injuries.

Thai trains attract foreign travelers who find the system’s antique appearance exotic, but for local passengers the trains are a reliable and inexpensive enough to take them to many provinces across the country, with the main alternative being long-haul buses.



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