Thailand, China agree to work together on high speed rail development

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Thailand and China have agreed to establish a joint working committee to implement a high speed rail project after the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate transport development in the region.

China’s Deputy Commerce Minister Chen Jian last Friday met with Thailand’s Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan to discuss the framework of cooperation and progress of the high speed rail project, according to Deputy Transport Minister Chatt Kuldilok, who oversees the State Railways of Thailand (SRT) and who also attended the meeting.

China wants to develop a railway route connecting Kunming in southern China with the Lao PDR and Thailand, as regional economies are growing constantly and a large number of Chinese visit Thailand, the Thai minister said.

During the talks, the two sides agreed to set up a working committee to implement the project.

China announced its readiness to support surveying and design and provide technical assistance after the Thai government stated its clear policy to develop the first Bangkok-Chiang Mai high speed rail route.

There is no obligation that only China can invest in the Thai high speed rail project, and no commitment that Thailand must use technology from China, Chatt said.

Thailand will begin a feasibility study, expected to take 3 to 4 months as the SRT already has some initial information. The design process will take another six months. The ministry of transport planned to start construction within this year.

The Transport Ministry is discussing with the Finance Ministry about investment needed for the project. Finance Ministry officials will determine whether the ministry will seek loans by issuing bonds or overseas loans with low or zero interest rates.