NLA OKs Thai-China railway deal

NLA OKs Thai-China railway deal

The National Legislative Assembly on Thursday approved a 350 billion baht plan for China to construct two rail lines linking major Thai industrial and trade centres.

Legislative members voted 187-0, with seven abstentions, to endorse the a memorandum of understanding (Mou) put forwarded by Transport Miniter Prajin Juntong after its cabinet approval Nov 18. The NLA votes paves the way for China and Thailand to sign it "soon," ACM Prajin said.

The Mou gives China authority to construct the standard-gauge line from Nong Khai to the Map Ta Phut deep-sea port in Rayong province and Kaeng Khoi district in Saraburi province - a combined distance of 734 kilometres. Another line runs from Kaeng Khoi to Bangkok for 133 kilometres. The construction cost is estimated at 350 billion baht.

The lines will be the first to use 1.435-meter-wide tracks in Thailand, which now uses the metre-wide system. The tracks will link another train line to be built from China to Vientiane in Laos.

ACM Prajin expected the construction survey to start in January or February after the MoU is signed. It will be enforced for five years.

The two countries will form a joint panel chaired by the minister from Thailand and China's National Development and Reform Council chairman to ensure all conditions in the MoU are followed.

China will be responsible for the construction and development of new train system, according to the MoU.

The minister told the assembly that Thailand will not render the land rights along the routes to China in exchange for its role in developing the project.

The wider tracks will allow trains to run faster - 160-180km/h - and can accommodate high-speed trains in the future. The average train speed on the present system hovers around 50km/h.

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