Sino-Thai rail project put back on track

Sino-Thai rail project put back on track

Latest talks mark milestone for venture

Prajin: Construction due in second quarter
Prajin: Construction due in second quarter

Nanning: Construction for the first phase of the Sino-Thai high-speed railway is expected to begin in the second quarter of next year as bilateral talks between the two governments are wrapping up, says Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong.

"We have agreed to proceed with the first phase of construction, which entails a 250-kilometre stretch from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. Chinese technology will be utilised, but Thailand will be fully responsible for project investment," ACM Prajin said on the sidelines of the 13th China-Asean Expo held in Nanning, China.

"I believe the first phase will occur in the third quarter of the 2017 fiscal year," he said. Every fiscal year begins Oct 1.

Chinese authorities did not ask their Thai counterparts to rush the construction process, but rather asked Thailand to continue to push the project forward, said ACM Prajin.

Chinese authorities have also offered to provide expertise to Thai officials on high-speed railways since they have experience in the area, he said.

His comments mark a milestone for the project, which has witnessed lengthy negotiations because of projected costs. In May, Chinese authorities estimated the cost at 190 billion baht, while Thai officials forecast 170 billion. In June, China raised its projection to 200 billion baht, while Thailand estimated 180 billion.

It was earlier reported that construction of the first 3.5km section of the Sino-Thai railway from Bangkok to Pak Chong would not get underway in September as planned because of financial disagreements between the two countries.

The Sino-Thai railway project includes a 355km section from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai province, bordering Laos, and a 246.5km section from Saraburi province to Rayong province, set to be built at later dates.

The Thai working committee held a meeting last month to discuss a construction framework and project implementation, where substantial progress was made, said ACM Prajin. Thailand would be fully responsible for project investment, though some outlays would be designated for China, he said without elaborating.

Details for the committee's terms of reference are expected to be completed by year-end or early next year for construction to commence, said ACM Prajin.

Some matters need to be clarified such as soil conditions, the control system, civil construction, and the project impact on people's livelihoods and the environment, he said.

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