Thailand signs US$1.62bn HSR deal as part of One Belt, One Road initiative
As of Wednesday, October 28th, reports in Bangkok have announced that Thailand has signed a US$1.62 billion agreement with Chinese companies China Railway and China Railway Design for the construction of a 253km highspeed railway (HSR) section between Bangkok and the northeastern Thai province of Nakhon Ratchasima. The deal forms yet another part of China’s One Belt, One Road global infrastructure development scheme.
The contract comes after a year of negotiating over the project’s costs. An agreement was almost reached in May 2020 but the signing has been delayed primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Both sides say they are planning to complete the first phase of construction in 2026.
As part of the contract, the Chinese companies are also duty-bound to provide technical cooperation and to upskill the local workforce contingent.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was quoted as saying that the agreement strengthens Thai-Sino ties and will “promote economic prosperity and transport connectivity.”
It now looks increasingly likely that the HSR line will continue North from Nakhon Ratchasima to eventually run into Laos as part of the “Pan-Asia Railway Network” that would connect Kunming in southern China with Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. In December 2017, work also began on a 3.5 km segment of the railway starting in Nakhon Ratchasima.
The news of the new contract comes after the completion date for the upgrading of Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok was deferred. Authorities had hoped it would open this year, but it is now pushed back to to 1st July, 2021.
Also, in September 2020, the separate project to build a 220km highspeed railway linking Thailand’s three main airports was placed on hiatus as funding for the project had not been approved.
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