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BANGKOK 24 May 2019 20:47
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Thailand says 'making progress' with high-speed Thai-Chinese railway

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Thailand says 'making progress' with high-speed Thai-Chinese railway

By Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panu Wongcha-um

 

high-speed-trains.jpg

File Photo

 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's government said it is "making progress" with the much-delayed high-speed Thai-Chinese rail line that is to link Thailand, Laos and China, as the three countries prepared to ink another agreement this week at Beijing's Belt and Road summit.

 

Formal talks on the project - a rail line expected to stretch 873 km (542 miles) - began in 2014 but have been beset by delays, including disagreements over design, financing AND technical assistance.

 

The Thai project is part of China's plan for a network of links across Southeast Asia that would eventually connect Kunming in southwest China with Singapore.

 

It is also part of a broader Chinese initiative to build infrastructure to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond.

 

Thailand decided in 2016 against Chinese financing for the project because of high interest rates - a complaint of similar projects in several countries - and decided to fund the 170 billion baht ($5.32 billion) Thai portion of project itself.

 

So far only the first 3.5 km of the line have been constructed in Thailand, but a Transport Ministry official told Reuters on Tuesday the first section leading to Bangkok should be completed in two to three years.

 

The project will be re-energised when Thailand, Laos and China sign a three-way memorandum of cooperation on Thursday at a Beijing conference to build a railway bridge connecting the Thai province of Nong Khai and the Lao capital Vientianne, said the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

"The connecting bridge will make the project an example of seamless connectivity in the region," Lada Phumas, director of the ministry's East Asia division, told reporters at a news briefing.

 

"The project is going at its own pace. We must stress that the project is making progress according to our goals," she added.

 

The Belt and Road summit, which takes place from Thursday to Saturday in Beijing, will be attended by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his foreign and transport ministers.

 

The comments from Thailand come after Malaysia and China agreed on April 12 to resume construction of a 688-km (430 mile) rail project.

 

"REALLY HAPPENING"

 

The Thai-Chinese railway is divided into two sections: the first is a 250-km (155 mile) line linking the Thai capital Bangkok and the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

 

That section is expected to be operational in two to three years, Chaiwat Thongkamkoon, permanent-secretary of the Ministry of Transport, told Reuters this week. He could not provide a timeline for the completion of the full project.

 

The other part links Nakhon Ratchasima and the Thai border at Nongkhai province, where the bridge - the subject of Thursday's agreement - will connect the Thai rail with the Laos network.

 

The construction of parts of the high-speed rail is done separately in each country. Thailand says it is not accepting financing from China, but using Chinese expertise and buys equipments and rail technology from China.

 

"That is why this connection area (the bridge between Laos and Thailand) is important. It symbolises that the Belt and Road initiative through this southern corridor is really happening," Chaiwat said.

 

He said back-and-forth discussions between China and Thailand have caused delays, but negotiations on the highly technical train system - consisting of signalling, power, and track-work - are now near completion.

 

"The Chinese developed the rail initially for their domestic use, and they have come far to export such technology but it is still relatively new for them in transferring their technology to others," Chaiwat said, adding that most of the documents, training courses and design were initially in Chinese.

 

"The negotiation is 90 percent completed and I think a deal can be tabled and signed by both sides in a month's time," Chaiwat said.

 

"After that it's all about construction."

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-04-24

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1 hour ago, trainman34014 said:

Nobody get excited please as if it takes years and years to get 3.5km built (if it has been) then building another 250 km in two to three years is unrealistic.  Indeed; i still have serious doubts this will ever be built as the price of materials and construction rises by millions every single day sods remain unturned.

 

At the end of the day what's the point of building a railway system that will never pay for itself and just leave the country with a massive debt burden ?

So your a railroader against railways? Passenger rail exsist for the public good. They aren't money makers. Never really have been that's why they are usually gov owned or subsidized. This one will be connecting some major, world class cities so it will be as viable as most. As a retired railroader I can't wait to be an early passenger.

Carman Pegman

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11 hours ago, Traubert said:

I think it's called nationalised industry.

 

Y'know, where the country gives it's citizens something back for their tax money.

 

If you've never been on a Chinese HST, and that one in the picture ISN'T a Chinese HST, it knocks spots off flying and is a quarter of the price.  That 688km line they're talking about could be transversed in four hours with multiple stops and they are really comfortable to ride on too. Think of an aircraft seat but with a lot of leg room, wifi and charging, and constant hostess trolley service.

 

Terrible coffee though.

Chances are that i've ridden on a lot more HST's around the World than many on this forum have.  I agree that it's a comfortable way to travel in many countries but Thai Drivers driving such technology and the maintenance of Infrastructure and Trains puts me right off the idea of having a ride ....if it ever gets built !

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14 hours ago, snoop1130 said:

Chaiwat Thongkamkoon of the Ministry of Transport told Reuters this week he could not provide a timeline for the completion of the full project.

I can help him there. I expect the project will be completed by the year 2100. Fare prices have already been set and plans for the ribbon cutting celebration and ceremony in Nong Khai in 2100 are being worked out now. A brand new shiny station is almost completed in Bangkok and ready for the first fast train to depart from.

This estimate of 2100 is based on length of time it will take to construct the next 11 km of the link between Si Khiu and Kut Chik. The government speculates it will take 540 days and a budget of 3.1 billion baht.

11 km = 540 days therefore the remaining 619 km should take about 30,500 days, give or take a week. 

30,500 days = 83.5 years or roughly the year 2100.....all going well.

The about information about the construction times comes from a source which I am unable to name. 

Try Googling "...start on 11km section of rail...."

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10 hours ago, pegman said:

So your a railroader against railways? Passenger rail exsist for the public good. They aren't money makers. Never really have been that's why they are usually gov owned or subsidized. This one will be connecting some major, world class cities so it will be as viable as most. As a retired railroader I can't wait to be an early passenger.

Carman Pegman

You will be a long time dead before this train rolls out of the station.

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14 hours ago, snoop1130 said:

Thailand decided in 2016 against Chinese financing for the project because of high interest rates - a complaint of similar projects in several countries - and decided to fund the 170 billion baht ($5.32 billion) Thai portion of project itself.

No - That was then and this is now.

  • Initially, the Prayut government wanted a joint venture with China to share the risk of cost overruns - and China declined.
  • Then when then government saw the high interest rate China wanted to charge to fully fund the project, the Prayut government decided it would fund the project entirely with Public and Private funds - but no private funding was forthcoming and the government apparently didn't have the cash.
  • So the Prayut government has engaged the Chinese government for more that 27 meetings to negotiate loans terms for the whole project.

Here is some of the history over negotiations for Chinese loan interest rates for the project:

Govt may tap funds locally for rail project (February 2015):

Thai-Chinese relations entering a new era of 'tangible progress' December 2015):

Construction of Thai-Chinese high-speed rail slated to begin next year (November 2018):

Completion of bids for Thai-China rail project expected in March (February 15, 2019):

  • The 252.5-kilometre-long phase from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima has been split into 14 separate contracts, which will use design and construction blueprints from China.
  • In regard to the 25-year borrowings for contract 2.3, Thai Ministry of Finance confirmed that it could accept the lending rate, proposed by China, of no more than 3 per cent with a grace period of five years.   http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/Economy/30364147

Given the high risk of economic failure of the project, China was concerned about Thailand being unable to service its Chinese loans for the project without any collateral. Thai economists and academics predicted the possibility of the project going bankrupt. Furthermore, Prayut invoked Article 44 that, among other waivers of applicable rules, regulations and laws that applied to the project, bypassed an economic review of the project for economic viability. Thus, China is charging a higher interest rate than it did for Indonesia (about 2.2%?).

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It takes 10 years to built something here that can be finished within 1 year in China. That's the "progress" they are talking about to get more publicity.

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13 hours ago, trainman34014 said:

At the end of the day what's the point of building a railway system that will never pay for itself and just leave the country with a massive debt burden ?

You clearly have no idea how things work here!   Mega projects are a goldmine for all the corrupt officials on the way, each one skimming & diverting public funds into their own bank accounts.

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3 hours ago, trainman34014 said:

Chances are that i've ridden on a lot more HST's around the World than many on this forum have.  I agree that it's a comfortable way to travel in many countries but Thai Drivers driving such technology and the maintenance of Infrastructure and Trains puts me right off the idea of having a ride ....if it ever gets built !

You take your life in your hands going at 20km/hr on present Thai trains; travelling at ten times that speed in the Land of Accidents, and paying heavily for the dubious privilege, strikes me as a (railway) bridge too far.

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16 hours ago, trainman34014 said:

Nobody get excited please as if it takes years and years to get 3.5km built (if it has been) then building another 250 km in two to three years is unrealistic.  Indeed; i still have serious doubts this will ever be built as the price of materials and construction rises by millions every single day sods remain unturned.

 

At the end of the day what's the point of building a railway system that will never pay for itself and just leave the country with a massive debt burden ?

Around Hua  Hin there is  massive development of a new twin track rail system, new road bridges and the land prepared with tons  (  million by the  look of  it) of  stone.

Follow the line from Hua  Hin heading south and it can be easily  seen.

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