Rail talks get Cabinet go-ahead

Construction News Laos Vietnam

Rail talks get Cabinet go-ahead

The Cabinet has approved in principle a framework for negotiations between the government and China on a high-speed-train project, which is part of a planned transnational railway linking China to Southeast Asia.

Because the framework for negotiations seeks an international agreement, it will have to be approved by Parliament before the government can settle down to negotiate with its Chinese counterpart.

However, the Cabinet rejected a proposal from the Transport Ministry that US$400 million (Bt12.47 billion) in export buyers’ credits be sought from China to finance the railway project.

The Transport Ministry informed the Cabinet yesterday of progress in the plan to cooperate with China on the high-speed-train project. The project will have two phases: from Nong Khai in the Northeast to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Rayong and from Bangkok to Padang Besar, on the border with Malaysia. The transnational line will start from Kunming in China‘s southwestern Yunnan province and run south to Thailand through Laos and Vietnam.

 The entire project, from Nong Khai to Bangkok and Rayong, and from Bangkok to Padang Besar, will cost almost Bt350 billion. The railway tracks will be built in parallel with existing tracks, but with a wider gauge of 1.4 metres, instead of the current gauge of 1 metre.

China‘s representative in charge of the project, Zheng Mingli, visited Thailand last month and met Transport Minister Sophon Saram. Together, they surveyed the Nong Khai-Bangkok route and held a tripartite meeting with representatives from Laos.

According to the Cabinet document, a preliminary study of the Nong Khai-Bangkok route says it will cover a total distance of 615 kilometres. The track will run through a tunnel of about 10km and will be elevated over a distance of 59km.

The high-speed train will travel at no less than 200 kilometres per hour. It will be electrically powered, and studies have shown that existing power supplies will be sufficient.

Since the railway will have to cross the mekong River, the Laotian representatives have requested bilateral talks first, so that Thailand and Laos can agree on the project before China is brought to the negotiating table.

Sophon travelled to China on August 26 for further discussions regarding cooperation on the railway project with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing. The Thai side informed the Chinese that the high-speed-rail project would be implemented from 2010 to 2014, and was regarded as part of a drastic reform of the Thai railway system.

On China‘s part, it will build a standard railway from Kunming to Vientiane, covering a distance of 420km. This line will then link with Thailand across the mekong River to Nong Khai before continuing to Bangkok and Rayong.

China says it is willing to provide support in manpower, training and technology transfer to the State Railway of Thailand.

The Cabinet has assigned the Transport Ministry to conduct a public hearing on the high-speed-train project, in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution.

The Cabinet was also told that during Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s visit to China in June, there were bilateral discussions on cooperation to build the high-speed-rail project.

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/home/2010/09/08/business/Rail-talks-get-Cabinet-go-ahead-30137506.html

Leave a Reply