Thai-Chinese train project back on track

Construction News

Work under bilateral cooperation likely to start by Sept; Thailand to be sole investor, may seek loans.

THAILAND WILL go ahead with the Sino-Thai railway project, work on which is expected to start in September this year after both countries’ officials reached an agreement at their 10th meeting in Beijing on Wednesday and Thursday.

The move followed the agreement in principle on March 23 in Hainan by the leaders of the two countries on government-to-government cooperation by which Thailand would solely invest in the project and start construction of the railway track for the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section first.

“Thailand will invest in the whole project according to the agreement by the two nations’ leaders,” said Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

He said the committees of both nations would have more discussions on the project’s investment value following a Thai request to the Chinese side to revise down costs of civil engineering work and the electrical train system. The cost revision would take into account safety standards, he added.

“The Chinese side will conclude this matter within one week,” said Arkhom.

The Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section is about 271.5 kilometres in length, as part of the 873km full project, which will run from Nong Khai to Bangkok and then to Laem Chabang and is expected to cost more than Bt500 billion.

Under the cost, the Sino-Thai railway project will feature a dual track with standard gauge track 1.435 metres wide, on which trains will run at a speed of up to 180km per hour.

However, the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section is likely to be upgraded to high-speed, with trains travelling at speeds in excess of 200km/hour, according to some observers.

Chinese rolling stock, signals

Arkhom said the project would obtain the engineering procurement and construction model, but would be divided into two parts – civil engineering works, and rolling stock and signalling system.

He said the civil engineering work would be the responsibility of the Thai side and the government would seek participation of Thai contractors. The work might be divided into four or five parts in order to speed up construction. The government might start construction first of the section that has the fewest problems such as the Korat-Pak Chong section, or the section in Ban Phachi, Ayutthaya.

The Chinese side would be responsible for the rolling stock and signalling system as well as drawings for the construction, said Arkhom. The Chinese government would select China’s state-owned enterprises with high quality standard after agreement with the Thai side.

Arkhom said the Thai side would also operate the high-speed trains by setting up a train operator with train operation and manpower training support provided by the Chinese side.

The Thai side will also seek funding for the project. The country is willing to consider loans offered by China to procure the rolling stocks system from it. However, the cost and conditions of the loan would have to be acceptable.

“The two sides agreed to set a time framework of the civil engineering construction as first phase within August or September,” said Arkhom.

“We expect the designs to take about 60 days,” he said, adding the next meeting was scheduled for June to finalise the framework of cooperation between Thai and Chinese governments on the details of the railway project.