Thailandís Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban last
week reported to the Cabinet the success of his recent visit to China,
saying that the neighbours to the north had agreed to invest in Thailandís
first high-speed railway and provide funding for the development of the Thai
rail link system.
Visiting China July 16-23, Suthep said the negotiations
between the two countries included talk on developing the rail link at the
Thai-Lao border of Thailandís Nong Khai province to Lao PDR and to China.
The line is expected to also link to Sungai Kolok in
Thailandís southern province of Narathiwat to Malaysia and will include an
upgrade of the overall Thai rail system so that in future it could link via
the north to Europe and in the south to Singapore.
The project will be built as a standard-gauge rail link
and is expected to cover transport in all countries of the Association of
South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Concerning the high-speed train, the Deputy Prime
Minister said China will cooperate with Thailand to build the countryís
first high-speed rail line from Bangkok to the eastern province of Rayong,
which will also connect to Lao PDR. He said Thailand will be responsible for
procuring land, while China will provide investment, technology and
The rail line would extend 240 kilometres from Bangkokís
downtown Makkasan area to Rayong on the Eastern Seaboard. The travel time is
expected at approximately one hour from an original three-hour drive.
Suthep said that Chinese technology for high-speed trains
is highly advanced. He said he rode a Chinese train from Beijing to Tian
Xing taking only 39 minutes for over 200 kilometres. The train runs at
338km/hr and Suthep said it was the best quality compared to railways he had
travelled on in other countries.
He suggested a Thai committee on the matter should be set
up to discuss the project in detail with China, while saying there might be
an agreement when Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva visits China in the
China also said it would promote Thailand as a tourist
destination among Chinese. It will as well consider buying more rice from
Thailand, while adding the rail link development will provide convenience
for people in the region to travel and enhance a better logistics and
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Sophon Sarum said the
ministry plans to expand the countryís existing rail links, but the State
Railway of Thailand (SRT) will have to research the issue and there might be
an adjustment of the standard gauge rail link system to ensure that it can
link to the rail system of Thailandís neighbouring countries.
Sophon said the joint venture between Thailand and China
does not affect the government budget of Bt170 billion (around US$5.15
billion) previously approved by the Cabinet to improve the Thai rail system.