Sino-Thai railway route on track to start this year

Sino-Thai railway route on track to start this year

873km line estimated to cost at least B350bn

Construction of four sections of a double-track rail route under joint development by Thailand and China are to start this year, according to plans announced by Transport Minister ACM Prajin Juntong Thursday.

Two sections are expected to be ready in 2017 and the others in 2018, he said.

The minister was speaking after a preparation meeting for talks with Chinese counterparts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Bangkok on the joint development of the double-track railways.

Construction of the first two sections — a 133km track from Bangkok to Kaeng Khoi and a 246.5km track between Kaeng Khoi and Map Ta Phut — will begin in September this year, and services on the two sections will begin in December 2017, according to the minister. 

The two other sections — a 138.5km track between Kaeng Khoi and Nakhon Ratchasima and a 355km track from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai — will be built from December this year, and services will commence in March 2018. 

The route is divided into four sections to serve quick exploration and design, ACM Prajin said. 

The 873km rail project is estimated to cost 350 billion baht. However, he said the sum could change pending the land survey. If new land is needed for the project, land expropriation expenses would rise. 

According to ACM Prajin, the Transport Ministry-based administration office governing the project, headed by permanent secretary for transport Soithip Traisuth, is assigned to design rail and signal systems. 

It will also explore land, deal with the environmental impact, take care of utilities as well as handle the public relations campaign in a bid to move the project forward smoothly, he said.

The project will kick off on March 1 with officials being sent to explore land where the route is planned to go through, he said. 

The minister said the project must run in line with the framework so it will achieve the planned target. 

Speaking about the talks with Chinese counterparts next week, ACM Prajin said details of the projects, including the land survey, construction plans and the time frame for each job, along with the proportions of domestic and foreign investment, will be made clear. 

The minister said 12-15 Thai companies which have experience in various fields are being sought out to take part in the project, while Chinese counterparts will conclude the list of developers from five Chinese state enterprises.

The firms will be weighed up and selected to proceed with the project, he said, adding that the conclusion of the matter will be known at a third meeting on Feb 25-27.

Thailand and China last month also signed an agreement to construct the 734km Nong Khai-Nakhon Ratchasima-Kaeng Khoi-Map Ta Phut rail line and a 133km track from Kaeng Khoi to Bangkok.

Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the first meeting will pave the way for the establishment of a joint steering committee, which will lay out the schedule of work and designs and conduct a project expenses appraisal. 

He noted that train carriage technology will employ the Chinese system, while track design will be made to comply with the Thai topography since it may be necessary for the sections to go through mountain tunnels.

The first talks could also touch upon human resources development and technology sharing on railway construction and operation. 

Mr Arkhom said a sub-committee assigned to make decisions on finance sources and type of investment will have to conduct a study to find the most suitable type of investment and method for the optimum benefit of the country.

The sub-committee must conclude laying out the details before the second meeting on Feb 5-7.

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