Bangkok to Beijing train trip gets closer

Construction News Laos
A train operated by the China-Laos railway is seen at the Vientiane railway station. (Photo: PhenluangPhenlao Facebook page)

Bangkok to Beijing train trip gets closer

Trial runs on new Vientiane link to start in July, journey to Beijing via Laos will take almost a full day

Train travel between Bangkok and Beijing is inching closer as Thailand prepares to expand its rail network.

A trial service between Bangkok and Vientiane, the capital of Laos, will take place on July 13 and 14, according to the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). When up and running, the new link will improve transport between the two countries and China, said Ekarat Sriarayanphong, head of the SRT governor’s office.

The launch of the Thailand-Laos connection, via a new short link from Nong Khai, will mean it is possible to travel by train from Bangkok to China’s capital via stops in Vientiane and the southern Chinese city of Kunming, where there is a separate semi-high-speed service to Beijing.

The roughly 3,200-kilometre journey, though the area’s mountainous terrain adds to the distance, will take almost a full day. That compares with just short of five hours for a non-stop flight.

There is already a high-speed train operating between China and Laos that offers a route for Thai goods to be transported via rail to Kunming, according to a Nikkei report. That has helped reduce delivery times to China to 15 hours from the two days it takes for trucks to carry freight along the mountainous route, it said.

Thailand is looking to improve its connectivity with China, its top trading partner, to help boost economic growth that is lagging behind regional peers.

The Southeast Asian nation’s exports to China totalled almost $32 billion in the first 11 months of last year, with top products including fruit and rubber products, according to government data. Its imports from China were valued at $65.3 billion in the same period, led by sectors including electric equipment and machinery.

Beyond trade, the two nations are also forging closer tourism ties. Visitors from China can stay for up to 60 days in Thailand, while tourists from Thailand can stay in China for 30 days.

The tourism sector is set to get a further boost from a separate, albeit much-delayed, project that will see a high-speed rail system link Thailand to China through Laos by 2028.