PM to offer 3 rail picks to Japan

Construction News Myanmar

Tokyo eager to invest in dual-track projects

The government will present Japan with three options for investment in double-track railways during Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Japan next month.

The issue is among the main topics for discussion between Gen Prayut and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe when the premier travels there between Feb 8-10, Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said.

The discussion will involve the development of double-track rail lines using 1.435m standard gauge in Thailand. ACM Prajin said Japan will be presented with three routes to choose from.

The first is the Mae Sot-Phitsanulok-Khon Kaen-Mukdahan route covering 770km.

A second 339km-route is from Kanchanaburi’s Ban Phu Nam Ron via Bangkok to Rayong’s Mab Ta Phut. The Kanchanaburi-Rayong route will be the gateway for goods moving from the Dawei industrial zone in Myanmar to Rayong, where there is a deep-sea port serving the Pacific Ocean, ACM Prajin said.

The third route, covering 653km, is from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

ACM Prajin said it is likely Japan will choose the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route, which has greater potential to materialise before the other routes.

He said if the Thai and Japanese leaders agree on investment, the next step will be for the two countries to sign a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on a government-to-government basis, the minister said.

He said a joint working group will then be set up to study details of the route and the investment.

According to a source at the Japanese embassy in Bangkok, a Japanese delegation, including ambassador Shigekazu Sato, met ACM Prajin at the Transport Ministry Tuesday to discuss the railway project. But details of the discussion were not disclosed.

Representatives from the Japanese government and the Transport Ministry had twice discussed joint cooperation on the development of a double-track rail route in Thailand. However, negotiations stalled after the Japanese government was dissolved ahead of a national election, and talks were suspended until a new government was recently formed, ACM Prajin said.

He said the permanent secretary at Japan’s Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry met Thai officials to discuss rail projects.

ACM Prajin said Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith will be among Gen Prayut’s delegation to Japan.

The minister said construction of the three routes is part of a master plan to develop the rail transport system initiated in July last year by the National Council for Peace and Order.

Thailand and China last month signed an agreement to construct a 734km Nong Khai-Nakhon Ratchasima-Kaeng Khoi-Map Ta Phut route, and a 133km Kaeng Khoi-Bangkok route. China would finance the projects with around 350 billion baht.

ACM Prajin said South Korea also expressed interest in investing in a 1.43m dual-track railway, though the government has not indicated which route.

ACM Prajin said the government has no policy of only granting one country the rights to construct all double-track rail routes, adding that the government is ready to cooperate with any countries showing an interest.

A source at the Transport Ministry said after Thailand signed the railway development deal with China that both Japan and South Korea were unhappy and approached the government for a similar deal.