The government has set up a working panel proposed by the Transport Ministry to better coordinate with transport authorities in Laos on plans to build a railway linking the two neighbours.
This is part of a high-speed railway project linking Thailand's rail system with the Laos-China Railway, which connects Kunming in China's Yunnan province with Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
In Thailand, the 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).
At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob proposed that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appoint Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul as the chief of the panel to liaise with the Commerce, Agriculture and Cooperatives, Industry, Finance and Transport ministries.
The panel will provide data integration on procurement and cross-border travel for inclusion in the plan for the railway linking Thailand and Laos.
The first phase comprises 14 contracts, three of which have not yet started. One is being held up due to problems related to the blueprint for the railway station in Ayutthaya for the Ban Pho-Phra Kaeo section.
Meanwhile, the Kaeng Khoi-Klang Dong and Pang Asok-Bandai Ma sections have overlapping infrastructure issues with another high-speed railway project linking three major airports in Thailand.
Nevertheless, a policy committee on the Eastern Economic Corridor expects the roadmap for the first phase to be finished by 2026, while the second phase must be completed by 2029.
Deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul said the cabinet on Nov 16 told the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to expedite the second phase of the project.
The 27th meeting of the Thai-Chinese joint committee on rail cooperation in 2019 agreed to the construction of a new bridge for the project, about 30 metres away from the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge.
Thailand, Laos and China have also signed a memorandum of understanding on rail cooperation.
Earlier on Sept 4, 2017, the SRT agreed to a contract with the China Railway Design Corp and China Railway International Corp.
This included a budget of 1.706 billion baht for the blueprint design, which has since been finished.