Work to begin soon on new rail lines linking region

Aug 3_3Work on two major infrastructure projects expected to boost Thailand’s longer-term economic growth and competitiveness are set to begin next month when Japan will send a team of surveyors to join with their Thai counterparts to lay the groundwork for the high-speed rail line from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

In addition, the Minister of Transport announced last week that Thailand would assist neighboring Laos as it begins construction later this year of rail lines linking the landlocked nation with China and Thailand. That line will eventually create a transport corridor from China all the way down to Malaysia and Singapore with business activity and economic growth radiating out along the entire route.

The agreement to build the Bangkok to Chiang Mai line was signed by Transport Minister Prajin Juntong and Akihiro Ota, the Japanese Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, in May. Deputy Minister of Transport Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said that the survey for the 390-mile, north-to-south route would take about one year.

The project will also link Thailand with its eastern and western neighbors, Cambodia and Myanmar. The north-south route will branch out and connect with a line that will run from Aranyaprathet on the border with Cambodia, through the Eastern Seaboard industrial zone, on to Bangkok and then Kanchanaburi province near Myanmar.

Situation at the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand’s new rail lines will be a major factor in increasing connectivity between the 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Those countries are preparing to launch the ASEAN Economic Community, a free-trade area with a population exceeding 620 million people, at the end of this year.

With the route surveys expected to take one year, construction will most likely begin sometime in 2017 or 2018. Once surveys are complete, project costs will need to be re-evaluated and submitted to the government for approval and a final agreement will be signed. Thailand’s government had initially estimated the total cost of the various rail lines it intends to build at between $60 billion and $70 billion.

The government is planning on using a Public-Private Partnership model for funding the projects, and last week Charoen Pokphand Group and Thai Beverage Corporation – both diverse conglomerates – expressed their intentions to invest in one of the lines each.

Construction on the two rail lines in Laos will begin this year, Minister Prajin said. The first is a 320-mile railway line from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southern China to Laos, and the second is a 260-mile line from the northern Lao border to its capital of Vientiane.

Meanwhile, Thailand and China are also partnering to build rail lines in Thailand that will connect to the lines in Laos. The two Thai-Chinese railways will run from Nong Khai, the northeastern province opposite Vientiane, to Saraburi and Bangkok; and from Saraburi to the Map Ta Phut port and industrial zone in Rayong.


Thailand Focus August 3rd, 2015
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