North-South Economic Corridor


The North-South Corridor (NSC) is probably the most important trade route with the heaviest demand. The key section is at the southern end, as it gets closer to Bangkok and links in with the eastern ring road connecting through to Laem Chabang. As the route moves further north beyond Tak, trade volumes decline. The central section of the corridor – the eastern loop between Thailand and the PRC passing through the Lao PDR – is considered more important than the western link, which involves more transshipment and problems in transiting through Myanmar. The link between Mohan and Kunming has trade, but given the reliance on border market trading, most southbound 'trade' traffic from Kunming is domestic movement to the border area.

The main constraint on this corridor lies in the middle section between Chiang Rai in Thailand and Boten in northern Lao PDR. The Thai section between Chiang Rai and the border at Chiang Khong is still under construction as of 2012 [update here?], thus lowering the average driving speeds. One problem has been the river crossing at Chiang Kong, Thailand to Houayxay, Lao PDR across the Mekong River. Trade movements are via ferries or are trans-shipped or loaded onto river transport. The $47 million Fourth Mekong Friendship Bridge is under construction with the opening scheduled for 11 December 2013 [link to Events]. When the bridge is completed, it will remove the remaining obstacle to road transporters. The Mohan border is expected to become an important transshipment center for PRC and Thai vehicles, either cross-docking or via the border market system with intermediate storage.

The trade traffic on the northern and central sections of the NSC are expected to be light compared to the southern section. This is because of the heavier import and export demands of Thailand’s non-GMS trade around the Bangkok metropolitan area and along the corridor to the north of the city, and the role of Bangkok and Laem Chabang as gateway ports. In addition, the majority of Thailand’s bilateral trade with the PRC is expected to continue to use the maritime route, mainly because the areas of demand are along the seaboards in both countries.

Completion of the corridor through Lao PDR is expected to generate new demand, particularly relating to cross-border trade, but major long-distance road traffic flows between Bangkok and Kunming are not expected due to premium traffic and the high transport costs for items such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Some transfer of traffic from inland waterway transport to road is likely once the bridge is completed and transport becomes more efficient through the Lao PDR.