The government's ambitious plan to develop high-speed train projects with China and Japan is expected to come to fruition this year. China will be involved in the rail project running from Bangkok to Nong Khai, and Japan will be part of the service linking Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The Sino-Thai project is split into two parts. The first part focuses on the 252.5km Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route and the second, the 354km Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai route. The train will be able to hit speeds of 250km an hour.
The first part is divided into four sections: A 3.5km route from Klang Dong to Pang Asok in Nakhon Ratchasima's Pak Chong district; an 11km route from Pak Chong to Sikhiu district; a 119km section between Nakhon Ratchasima and Saraburi's Kaeng Khoi district of Saraburi, and the 119km from Kaeng Khoi to Bangkok. The Klang Dong-Pang Asok section will be developed first and Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith says he is confident construction will begin as early as March this year. Bidding for the work will be concluded in February.
Based on a meeting between Chinese and Thai officials to discuss the project in December, construction of the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route will cost 179.4 billion baht. In March last year, an agreement was reached between Thailand and China for joint development of the Bangkok-Nong Khai railway construction.
However, the talks faced difficulties as China insisted Thailand offer plots of land along the tracks or certain ports as collateral. "We cannot accept this. We must hold further talks on the matter," said Mr Arkhom. China has also offered loans to fund the signalling system along with the trains. The interest rate is put at 2.3% for a loan in US dollars and at 2.8% for loan in Chinese yuan.
As a result, the Thai government announced late last year it would go into the project alone, using its own funds to invest in the project, but buy trains and signalling systems from China. Construction of the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima rail section could take three years.
Regarding the Thai-Japanese high-speed train project to link Bangkok and Chiang Mai, the project is split into two sections: 384km linking Bangkok–Phitsanulok, worth 227.4 billion baht, and 285km linking Phitsanulok–Chiang Mai, valued at 269.3 billion baht. The train can reach speeds of 300 km per hour.
The Japanese sought approval to study the project last year and it will draft the design in details this year. Construction will start in 2018 for a launch date in 2022.