High-speed train talks with China back on rails
The Transport Ministry will hold contract talks with China for the joint high-speed railway project between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima during the Asean Summit in November, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said on Thursday.
Mr Saksayam said Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will also attend the Asean Summit, to be held in Bangkok.
Thai officials and their Chinese counterparts have yet to reach a deal on the so-called "Contract 2.3" worth about 50 billion baht, which covers the cost of purchasing tracks, an electricity system, machinery, procurement of train carriages and training.
Contract 2.3 is one of 14 separate deals that are required for the project's first phase -- construction of a 125-billion-baht section stretching 252.5km from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.
However, Ruth Banomyong, an academic at Thammasat University's Department of International Business, Logistics and Transport, said diplomatic and financial officials have questioned whether the Thai government has enough money to finance the second phase of the joint project, in the Northeast.
The second phase is a 355-km-long section from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai, which will cost about 200 billion baht.
According to Mr Ruth, prior to a July meeting between both sides in Beijing, Thai officials were still mulling proposals to seek loans from the Export-Import Bank of China at an interest rate of 2.3%, which the Thai side thought was too high.
Speaking after a meeting of economy-related ministers, Mr Saksayam also said the Transport Ministry will provide updates on the progress of projects under the government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) high-tech investment hub designed to boost the economy and provide for future development needs.
They include a 504-billion-baht infrastructure development for the EEC, a 200-billion-baht "aviation city" at U-tapao airport in Rayong province, the 224-billion-baht high-speed rail project linking Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, and U-tapao airports in Bangkok, Samut Prakan and Rayong respectively, and the 84-billion-baht third-phase development of Laem Chabang seaport in Chon Buri.
Mr Saksayam said the ministry is currently at the stage of selecting and negotiating with private companies before contracts can be signed.
The minister added that the contract for the high-speed train project linking the airports is expected to be signed this month.
A CP-led consortium won the bid to build the railway linking the three airports as part of EEC development plans.
The 220-km railway network, with trains operating at up to 250 kilometres per hour, is scheduled to open in 2024.