Thailand, China pledge to start rail work this year
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Thailand, China pledge to start rail work this year

A Chinese-made diesel locomotive pulls 40 containers during a test run earlier this year near the Inland Container Depot in Bangkok’s Lat Krabang district. (Post file photo)
A Chinese-made diesel locomotive pulls 40 containers during a test run earlier this year near the Inland Container Depot in Bangkok’s Lat Krabang district. (Post file photo)

Thailand and China have vowed to speed up their delayed joint railway project with construction to start before the year-end, says Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

Mr Don made the comment in Beijing during his visit to mark four decades of diplomatic relations between Thailand and China. He said the Chinese government was keen to start the project, the agreement for which was signed last December by the two countries' prime ministers, Prayut Chan-o-cha and Li Keqiang.

Speaking after talks with on Friday with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, Mr Don said the two countries would move forward with a groundbreaking ceremony within this year, according to NBT television, which accompanied the minister on the three-day trip ending on Saturday.

The meeting centred on cooperation between the two countries to develop the railway lines, he added.

China's enthusiasm was reflected in message conveyed to Mr Don by the Chinese foreign minister in their meeting and when he called on the Chinese premier later on Friday.

Mr Wang said he saw the benefits of the rail lines, which would help turn Thailand into a regional transport hub, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Mr Li hoped for an early start for the project, the agency added.

"The railway will promote the two countries' economic development and facilitate trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between China, Thailand and the Indochina peninsula," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Thailand has agreed to allow China to build the 873-kilometre, double-track route from Nong Khai province to Map Ta Phut in Rayong and to Bangkok. The system, which would carry medium-speed trains mainly for freight, would cost about 400 billion baht.

Construction originally was planned to start on Oct 23 but both sides remain divided on the construction costs of two out of four sectors.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said last month that one quotation from China was 30% above estimates and remained a stumbling block.

Negotiators are attempting to settle the difference and other issues including projecting financing.

The project will be carried out under a special-purpose vehicle set up by the two countries to manage the investment.

Thailand also has signed another railway construction agreement with Japan. Japan is interested in building a high-speed line linking Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak hopes to use his visit to Japan later this month or early in November to persuade Japanese investors to build two medium-speed east-west lines. They are a route from Map Ta Phut to Kanchanaburi province and from Mukdahan in the Northeast to Mae Sot district in Tak province.

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