The Transport Ministry will seek an allocation of 140 million baht from the central budget to fund a feasibility and design study on a new bridge across the Mekong River as part of the third phase of the Thai-Chinese high-speed rail project.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the seventh bridge linking Nong Khai with Vientiane, also known as the second Thai-Laos friendship bridge, is designed to accommodate both rail and road transport.
He said the Department of Highways will be responsible for the design study which is estimated to cost about 140 million baht.
According to Mr Saksayam, construction costs of the bridge and a small network of roads are estimated at 4 billion baht. Costs are likely to be split between Thailand and Laos and the issue will be discussed by the joint Thai-Laos committee.
The bridge project must be completed before the second phase of the high-speed train project opens for service in 2028, said the transport minister.
The high-speed train project is divided into three phases: the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section covering 253 kilometres, the Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai section (356km) and the Nong Khai-Vientiane section (16km).
Department director-general Sarawut Songsiwilai said the department will propose the fund allocation to the ministry next week so it can be submitted to the cabinet in late February.
He said the study of the new bridge, which is to be located 50 metres from the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge, will take one year to complete.
The design study will include a signalling system, a toll collection system, a 1.435-metre-wide high-speed track system and one-metre-wide tracks for a double-track rail system, said Mr Sarawut.