Bangkok set to be China's rail hub
Thai-Sino railway deal just part of an ambitious China plan which covers the region
China has an ambitious plan to establish three rail routes called the "Pan-Asia Railway Network" to foster rail connections between the country and mainland Southeast Asian nations, with Bangkok serving as the hub.
Thailand and China have reached an agreement to build the 845km double-track rail routes that cover the Bangkok-Kaeng Khoi-Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai section, and the Kaeng Khoi-Map Ta Phut section.
The sections are only part of the Pan-Asia Railway Network's central route, which runs from the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia and ends at Singapore.
Speaking of the Thai-Shino rail development, a Transport Ministry source said consultancy firms are in the process of drafting the design and the investment plan.
The cost will be finalised in February next year and the construction will commence in May as planned, the source said.
Officials are studying the investment model, with China likely to scale up its proposed investment in the project, including rail operation, signal system installation, construction and civil work.
Earlier, the talks hit snags, with China offering an interest rate for project financing higher than the government anticipated. The two sides have yet to reach an agreement, with the government now looking at exploring other financing options. The Finance Ministry is in charge of the matter.
State Railway of Thailand (SRT) governor Wutthichart Kalayanamitr said Thailand will be responsible for civil work and electricity supply, while China will deal with tunnel digging, rail bridge construction and track laying on hill slopes.
Concerning the rail operation system, he said China will be in charge of railway engineering work, the installation of signal and communication systems as well as drive and control operations, while Thailand will deal with the sourcing and transport of construction materials.
The governor said the eight-car CRH2G passenger trains will run on the line with a maximum speed of 250 km/h. A train can accommodate 613 people. HXD3B and HXD3C electric locomotives will be used to carry cargo trains at 120 km/h.
According to the source, the trains could run from Bangkok to Nong Khai in 229.5 minutes at a speed of 180 km/h.
If the speed is geared up to 250 km/h, the trains could complete the route in 179.4 minutes.
The routes will extend from Nong Khai to Tha Na Laeng in Laos, the starting point of a 418km rail link between Laos and China. The railways go from Tha Na Laeng through Vientiane and Luang Prabang and ends at Boten, the town bordering China.
A Sino-Laos joint venture will build this Lao rail route, set for a late 2020 launch.
The lines will extend to China at Mohan in Yunnan province, the starting point of a 553km route leading to Kunming.
Of the route, a 49.3km section will stretch from Kunming to Yuxi, for which construction is projected to wrap up this month. Another 504km section will run from Yuxi to Mohan.
Work on this section started in August this year and will take six years.
The 4,500km central route stretching from Kunming to Singapore is only one of the three China rail plans under the Pan-Asia Railway Network.
Another is on the western front. This line will run trains from Kunming to Singapore through Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia with a total distance of 4,760km.
The final one is on the eastern side, running from Kunming, through Yuxi, Mengzi and leaving China at Hekou town bordering Vietnam.
They then pass through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and end at Singapore with 5,500km in total distance.
The central route is the shortest and would handle cargo transport from Yunnan to Thailand, according to officials. The route is expected to spur trade between Thailand and China.
The eastern route, meanwhile, takes advantage of the existing railways in Vietnam.
When the rail line between Yuxi and Mengzi is completed, the Sino-Vietnamese rail link will be established. This will be the the first part of the Pan-Asia Railway Network route to get off ground.
The western line offers access to the Dawei deep-sea port and industrial state in Myanmar. In the future, Dawei will serve as a commercial hub linking the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
The Pan-Asia Railway Network is likely to spur trade, cultural exchanges and economic development between China and the Indochinese region, the ministry source said.
Under the network, where three rail routes pass through Bangkok, the Thai capital will become the key strategic location in the region.
Chinese cargo can be loaded onto ships in the Gulf of Thailand at ports in Bangkok and Cambodia when the network is completed.