Thai-China rail project MoU approved

The cabinet approved a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Thailand and China for mutual cooperation on the development of the Nong Khai-Map Ta Phut dual-track electric rail route, government spokesman Yongyuth Maiyalarp said Tuesday.

The draft MOU, proposed by the Transport Ministry, will allow China to play a lead role in developing the 1.435-metre standard-gauge railway route, stretching 734km from Nong Khai, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Kaeng Khoi district of Saraburi to Map Ta Phut, Rayong, on the Eastern Seaboard. Another 133km section links Bangkok with Kaeng Khoi.

Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has approved a US$23 billion project to connect two high speed railways with China’s rail network by 2021.

Plans for the Thai railways show one rail will connect the town of Nong Khai, just south of Laos’s capital Vientiane, with Map Ta Phut, located to the southeast of Bangkok. This section of rail is projected to cost 392.5 billion baht (US$12.2 billion) and will run 737 kilometers. Chiang Khong, positioned along Thailand’s northern border, will be connected to Ban Phachi, in the central Ayutthaya regions slightly north of Bangkok, along a track 655 kilometers in length at an expected construction cost of 348.8 billion baht (US$10.85 billion).

Under the administration of Thailand’s previous prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, China and Thailand had reached a bilateral agreement wherein the high-speed rail projects would be partially paid for in rice, as well as through loan funding. Being part of a larger infrastructure development scheme, the project was thrown into limbo last March when a loan bill to fund the scheme was deemed unconstitutional.