BANGKOK (Reuters) Thailand have signed two contracts, worth 5.2 billion baht ($157 million), with Chinese state enterprises for a high-speed rail project with China, Anon Luengboriboon, acting governor of the State Railway of Thailand, said yesterday.
The first contract covers the detailed engineering design of the project worth 1.7 billion baht, while the second involves the hiring of Chinese technical advisers, worth 3.5 billion baht.
The Thai government and Chinese state enterprises signed the two contracts this week, witnessed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on the sideline of a BRICS summit in China.
Construction of the first phase of the project, a 250-km rail line that will link the Thai capital, Bangkok, and the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, will begin in October. It is expected to be operational in 2021, according to Mr Anon.
The Department of Highways will build the first 3.5 km of the rail line while the rest will be open to public bidding for Thai contractors, Mr Anon told Reuters.
The signing of these two contracts has officially kicked-off the Thai-Chinese high-speed rail project.
The project has been in the making since 2014 but was beset with delays, held up by negotiations over everything from the cost and loan terms to land development rights.
The full line will span 873 km, linking Thailand and Laos across the Mekong river at the northeastern Thai city of Nong Khai.
The project is part of Chinas Belt and Road initiative, which aims to build a modern-day Silk Road connecting the worlds second-largest economy by land corridors to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and with maritime routes opening up trade with the Middle East and Europe.
At a summit in May, Mr Xi pledged $124 billion for the plan, but it has faced suspicion in Western capitals that it is intended more to assert Chinese influence.
Investment in Thailand's extensive metre-gauge main line network has cast doubt on the viability of a long-planned standard gauge railway linking the country to China via Laos.
THAILAND: Officials from Thailand and China signed two co-operation contracts for the planned Bangkok Nakhon Ratchasima high speed railway project on the sidelines of the three-day BRICS Summit in Xiamen, which ended on September 5.
The contracts are worth 5·2bn baht and cover design and supervision tasks for the new railway. The planned 1 435 mm gauge high speed line would be designed to Chinese standards for operation at up to 250 km/h, and would cover a 252 km route between the two cities.
The long-delayed project will be financed wholly by Thailand, at a cost estimated to be 179bn baht. But project delivery and railway systems will be covered by Chinese organisations, under the terms of a bilateral agreement. The agreement has proved controversial in Thailand, but the project was approved by the Thai cabinet in July.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-Cha was invited to participate in the BRICS summit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, having been left off the list of invitees for a high-profile Belt and Road infrastructure conference in May. Observers had viewed this as a snub for overt the failure to launch the high speed project.
The Bangkok Nakhon Ratchasima scheme is the latest iteration of a proposal that would have been Chinese-funded and connected with the railway now being built from China into Laos. However, negotiations on an extension of the trans-Laos railway into Thailand are reported to have collapsed when Chinese officials discovered that the Thai government was pushing ahead with double-tracking the existing metre-gauge railway between Bangkok and the border city of Nong Khai.
Thai version of this news: Thai government is signing the 5,206.771 Million Baht contract to hire Chinese firms to handle design and consultant for Thai - China High Speed train during the 9th BRICS Xiamen Summit at Xia Men
Here are the contracts in question:
1. Detailed Design Services Agreement at 1,706.771 Million Baht
2. Construction Supervision Consultant Services Agreement at 3,500 Million Baht
A young viewer checks out a computer visualisation of the Thai-Chinese rail development project linking Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD
Construction of the Thai-Chinese rail development project linking Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima is expected to begin in November.
Construction of the Thai-Chinese rail development project linking Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima is expected to begin in November, Deputy Transport Minister Pichit Akrathit said yesterday.
Mr Pichit was speaking after the latest meeting on the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway project, the 21st so far, in Tianjin, China, attended by Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith and Wang Xiaotao, vice-chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission.
He said Thailand and China have signed an agreement on engineering procurement construction (EPC) and a contract to officially kick-start the joint development scheme should be ready on Oct 9.
The construction design should be passed to the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) in mid-October with construction work likely to begin in November, he added.
Under the joint scheme, Thailand is the project owner and China is responsible for certain engineering work and procuring track systems and equipment.
According to Mr Pichit, a first group of 76 Chinese engineers have undergone training and sat exams to test their understanding of Thai law and professional code of ethics as well as their engineering expertise.
The training and tests for the 179-billion-baht project were designed by the Council of Engineers in line with an order issued under Section 44.
About 400 Chinese engineers are due to be trained and tested. They need a 60% score to pass the tests.
The 21st meeting focused on the details of a contract involving mechanical and electrical systems, carriages, and future plans for the line extension from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai.
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