China-Thailand deal agreed in principle
Thailand and China have agreed in principle on a 250-billion-baht joint investment in a high-speed rail project linking Nong Khai in the Northeast with Bangkok and continuing to the southern border town of Padang Besar, a total distance of 1,500 kilometres.
The target speed of the rail project is 200-250km/h, with the entire project taking four years to complete.
Investment is estimated at 248 billion baht with a projection of 41,000 passengers one way per day in 2017.
The project has an estimated 19.1% economic investment rate of return.
The high-speed train will be better than the present Bangkok to Sungai Kolok service for cargo transport and tourism, while the Nong Khai-Bangkok-Padang Besar line will be improved to facilitate speeds of 250km/h.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has been assigned by the prime minister to follow up with Chinese officials on progress.
Negotiations will cover joint venture terms, land provision, technology and technology transfers.
Mr Suthep yesterday confirmed the two countries have agreed in principle to construct a standard gauge Nong Khai-Bangkok-Padang Besar line, with construction taking four years.
“Thailand has requested the Chinese government apply the same details and conditions as for its rail investment in Laos including management, investment, loans and interest rates, and China has agreed,” said Mr Suthep.
However, he said the investment budget in Thailand will be lower than in Laos, where China must construct a 190km tunnel and 90km of bridges as well as build a bridge across the Mekong River.
Rail construction in Laos will total 480km at a cost of 40-50 billion yuan (180-226 billion baht) or an average cost of 90 million yuan per kilometre.
But construction in Thailand will be cheaper as the rail line will be almost all on the ground.
Thailand must also negotiate with Laos regarding the location of a new bridge across the Mekong River.
The project is expected to benefit trade, investment and tourism. Travelling 200km on the service will take two hours and cost 500 baht. This compares with only a 750-baht fare per 750km for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai project.
Mr Suthep said a joint venture with each country owning 50% will likely be established. Thailand will contribute 30% of the land costs.