Multi-modal logistics solution to Thai transport problem

The Bangkok Post has an interesting article in the business section today regarding multi-modal logistics opportunities.

As oil prices spiral upwards, economies that depend on a disproportionate use of road transport to support their manufacturing and export markets will continue to suffer, if not eventually become moribund.

The article suggests that Thailand is very dependent on oil for its transport requirements, and highlights that any increase in oil prices have a negative impact on the economy. Although we would think that the effect would be felt by competing countries in a similar way, it seems that Thailand's lack of utilisation of alternatives to road transport puts it at a disadvantage. The article continues:

According to a 2005 Logistics Digest report, Thailand's land transport volume (road, rail, sea, pipeline, and air cargo) exceeds 550 million tonnes: a staggering 86% is being carried by truck on congested roads. For container traffic the State Railways of Thailand handles only 30% of the 17 million container movements each year, with the rest carried by truck.

This is contrasted with efforts being made by China:

As part of its phenomenal economic growth and hunger for commodities, China has taken strategic view of the costs associated with land transport. It has embarked on a total revitalisation of its rail infrastructure and established rail transport corridors that link with other countries and markets including Europe, Russia and southern Asia. It has adopted the introduction of block freight trains and incorporated hub-and-spoke transport and distribution centre infrastructure around multi-modal freight handling terminals as part of its national transport plan. The Chinese Ministry of Rail has entirely debunked its old image of a traditionally run state enterprise.

I would provide a link to the complete article on the Bangkok Post website, however they move their stories away quite quickly.

Right now oil prices are relatively low, but the effects of any increases are felt quickly and across the board in part due to the way goods are transported in Thailand. The article doesn't go into the environmental impact, and the safety aspects attached to Thailand's current transport habits.

Moving even a small percentage of freight transport off the roads to rail would not only lessen the countries sensitivity to fluctuations in oil prices, but would also reduce environmental damage, and remove some hazards from the highways.