Thailand Plans to Extend Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima Railway Line

Thailand and China plan to extend their ambitious Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima railway line to Nong Khai, even though they have yet to work out the details for a token three-kilometre spur planned to start the long-delayed project.

08 December 2016 Thursday, 00:03

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith made the announcement on Friday after a meeting of a Thai-Chinese joint working committee on the project.

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He said Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak would lead a delegation to sign a memorandum of cooperation with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing next Friday.

Both sides have agreed to return to the original plan by extending the project to Nong Khai, Mr Arkhom said. Previously, the Thai government had cut Nong Khai from the route, focusing on the line from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, after both sides failed to reach agreement on financial aspects and commercial land development alongside the tracks.

However, the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route will be the first phase.

Work was supposed to have started on the rail line in October 2015 but the two sides remained far apart on financing. Thailand is also opposed to a Chinese request to be involved in commercial development of railway land.

In a face-saving gesture, the two sides agreed to build a 3.5-kilometre section this year, just so they could say that work had begun. However, even that project has been delayed.

Mr Arkhom said on Friday that 50% of the design work for the first 3.5km had been finalised and construction bids are expected to be called in March.

Meanwhile, the Transport Ministry urged Thai firms to partner with overseas counterparts to invest in domestic production of parts and accessories for rail systems to help bolster rail development.

Deputy Transport Minister Ormsin Chivapruck said such partnerships would contribute to the government’s rail development policy which seeks to promote the manufacturing of components domestically and local assembly to reduce dependence on imports.

He was speaking at SmartRail Asia & Transport Infrastructure Asia 2016, a two-day seminar and rail industry and technology trade show that ended on Friday.

The event attracted manufacturers, contractors, suppliers and operators of rail and metro systems and related technology such as communications, IT, signalling, and rolling stock from 24 countries.

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