Officials of the Thai, Lao PDR and Chinese governments are considering the building of new railway bridge, running parallel to an existing one, which will carry two different rail gauges, one metre and 1.435 metres, to facilitate the cross-border transport of cargo containers.
Currently, there is no rail link between the already operational China-Lao PDR high-speed train system and Thailand’s rail network, which terminates in the north-eastern province of Nong Khai, due to the different rail gauges. Thai cargo containers bound for China have to be unloaded from trains at a container terminal in Nong Khai and loaded onto container trucks to cross the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge to Vientiane and then loaded onto the high-speed train to China.
Officials said that this is just a short-term solution for cargo containers heading for destinations in China, adding that the new rail bridge will have two sets of tracks, one of each gauge.
Transport of Thai goods to China by rail is increasing with the opening of the Chinese-Lao high-speed train service, which has shortened the travel time from about three weeks to roughly three days.
Nong Khai Deputy Governor Sirima Wattano said that she hopes that the new bridge will boost the economy in the province, which will become a gateway for trade, industry and logistics in the region.
The Thai-Chinese high-speed train project, from Bangkok to Nong Khai, has been delayed, with the first phase of the project, from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, still under construction and expected to begin operations in 2026.
The new railway line, which runs from Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province to the Lao capital of Vientiane, is the first link in a pan-Asian railway linking Beijing with Singapore, a long envisioned part of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative. The next link in the chain will run from Nong Khai to Bangkok.