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.
Last edited by Mongwin on 05/01/2018 9:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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.
The cabinet has given the go-ahead for the Highways Department to begin building the first 3.5km section of the Thai-Sino high-speed train project stretching from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.
Construction kicks off tomorrow when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will preside over the ceremony to initiate the piling work for the 179-billion-baht Sino-Thai high-speed network at tambon Klang Dong, Pak Chong district of Nakhon Ratchasima.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the first section stretching from Klang Dong to Pang Asoke will be on flat terrain and the civil work for the railway is similar to that of roads and motorways.</p>
<p>As a result, the cabinet instructed the Highways Department to develop the first section with a budget of 425.94 million baht as proposed by the Transport Ministry.
The second section is an 11km stretch from Sikhiu district to Kud Jik in Sung Noen district. Its construction will begin in August next year and will take 12 months to complete.
The third section is the 119.5km run from Kaeng Khoi of Saraburi to Nakhon Ratchasina. Work will commence in November and last for 30 months.
The construction of the fourth section is from Bang Sue of Bangkok to Kaeng Khoi with a length of 119km, starting in January 2019 and will take 30 months to complete.
Thanin Somboon, director-general of the Highways Department, said he has set up four working groups with a total of 100 officers to oversee construction of the first section.
The working groups will turn the design produced by the Chinese side into practical documents, area surveys, construction material procurement and construction quality control.
The construction of the first section would be used as a model for the remaining three sections, he said.
The Transport Ministry said China will submit a design for each section on a gradual basis over six months, while the ministry is working out the procurement process and terms of reference.
In another development, Mr Arkhom said the cabinet also approved the budget framework for the first phases of five new double-track railways for a total of 95.49 billion baht.
They include the 10.2-billion-baht Hua Hin-Prachuap Khiri Khan line; the 17.2-billion-baht Prachuap Khiri Khan-Chumphon line; the 29.4-billion-baht Map Kabao-Jira line; the 20-billion-baht Nakhon Pathom-Hua Hin line; and the 24.8-billion-baht Lop Buri-Pak Nam Pho line.
The cabinet also decided to allow the State Railway of Thailand to borrow 11.28 billion baht to use as its liquidity. The Finance Ministry will be guarantor of the loan.
SRT is one of the country's most debt-ridden state enterprises. It has accumulated debts of more than 100 billion baht.
The agency plans to set up an asset management company to manage its assets with a target of making 60 billion baht over six years.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, fifth from left, yesterday joins delegates at a symbolic digging ceremony in Nakhon Ratchasimas Pakchong district to mark the beginning of the first phase of the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed rail development
THE government has set a new target to call for construction bids for the Bt179-billion, 252-kilometre Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed railway by the end of next year, according to Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittay-apaisith.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday presided over a ceremony to mark the commencement of the project in partnership with China at a historical site in Pakchong districts Tambon Klangdong in Nakhon Ratchasima province, where King Rama V initiated construction of the countrys first Northeast-bound railroad more than a century ago.
The ceremony was also attended by a senior representative from the Chinese government, which signed a bilateral agreement with Thailand to provide high-speed train technology in late 2014.
Prayut said the project was the first phase of the Bangkok-Nong Khai high-speed train system, which would connect Thailand with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, as well as with China and India in subsequent stages.
Once completed, the route is meant to position Thailand as a transport and logistics hub for Asean and Southeast Asia.
The project is also meant to be connected with Chinas high-speed train system as part of the One Belt, One Road cross-border development programme recently launched by China based on the ancient Silk Road, covering more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and other continents. The premier said the project would boost Thailands economic potential and create new trade, investment and tourism opportunities for the benefit of towns and cities along the route from Bangkok to the northeastern provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima and Nong Khai, which border Laos.
Those benefits were aimed at helping reduce economic inequality and redistribute wealth, while saving commuting time and expenses between Bangkok and the Northeast.
In addition, it would reduce |pollution and the number of accidents caused by congested |highway traffic.
The premier also urged government agencies to reform city planning and related laws to take advantage of new urban development resulting from the high-speed train project.
Arkhom said a total of 13 construction contracts for the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route would be open for bidding in 2018 so that construction could be completed and the system become operational in 2021.
Subsidiary firms to be set up
Arkhom said Deputy Transport Minister Pairin Chuchotetaworn would be responsible for setting up subsidiary companies under the State Railway of Thailand to ensure the project was economically viable with a break-even point achieved in 30 years.
Separate business units will be established to take care of commercial and related operations so that they have flexibility to run the service and compete with low-cost airlines for passengers, since the project requires a massive investment of nearly Bt180 billion in the first phase.
Fares will start at Bt195 from Bangkoks Bang Sue station to Ayutthaya and increase to Bt278 to Sara Buri, Bt393 to Pak Chong and Bt535 to Nakhon Ratchasima.
In the following stage, the route will be extended to Nong Khai, where the system will be connected with the high-speed train system in Laos, where China has also worked with Vientiane to create a linkage with its own high-speed train system in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.
Besides Thailand and Laos, the cross-border system could be further extended into other Asean countries including Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar.
In addition to the Thai-Chinese railway project, the Thai government has also worked with Japan to develop the Bangkok-Chiang Mai bullet train project with an investment estimated to be more than Bt400 billion.
CONSTRUCTION of a much-improved rail link from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is expected to start next year, but the government will evaluate whether to proceed with a proposed high-speed service or switch to a medium-speed alternative, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said yesterday.
If the government went with the original high-speed proposal, the investment value would be up to Bt500 billion, Somkid said after the meeting in Sukhothai province. Regardless of which option was chosen, construction was expected to start next year, he said.
The Cabinet asked the Ministry of Transport to conduct a feasibility study on a medium-speed train service, as an alternative to the high-speed train for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route, while seeking funding for the project under the project under a public-private partnership (PPP) model, Somkid said.
The Cabinet meeting yesterday also acknowledged the goals of the transport infrastructure development plan for the North for promoting broader development and economic connectivity with Greater Mekong Sub-region with investment budget of Bt135 billion for road transport in the North from 2014-2018.
Somkid said the study would look into the worthiness of investment and opportunities for PPP investment, adding that the project envisaged a construction start in 2018.
The move comes after the release of the Japan International Coopera-tion Agency's recent study on the planned Bangkok-Chiang Mai high-speed train project that estimated investment of Bt400-Bt500 billion.
Medium-speed train travels at 180-200 kilometres per hour, while high-speed trains go at about 250 kilometres per hour.
In regard to the double-track railway project next year, Ministry of Transport will sign contracts with private companies for five routes.
Taking the worthiness of investment into consideration, the Bangkok-Chiang Mai rail service would not connect with Yunnan province in southern China, a medium-speed train would also help promote tourism, Somkid said.
We want construction to start next year. Meanwhile, we have to see the conditions on whether or not we can do the PPP scheme as we talked to Japan about this project as a G2G (government to government) project, Somkid said.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said that the proposed investment for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai high-speed train project was relatively high and the Cabinet asked the ministry to gather more details on the projects worthiness and the possibility for private participation.
The Cabinet has not postponed the project and the ministry will forward the to-be-detailed project to the Cabinet meeting for approval in principle in March 2018, he said.
In the overall plan for transport network development in the North, the double-track railway for the Denchai-Chiang Mai route would help reduce travel time between Bangkok and Chiang Mai from 14 hours to 12 hours, while a Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai-Chiang Khong project is expected to be proposed to the Cabinet early next year.
For road projects, the North has been allotted 24 per cent of a road construction budget to connect the region with neighbouring countries, including Laos, and construction for an Uttaradit-Tak and Mae Sot-Nan routes has been accelerated for linkages with tourism benefits.
Several air transport development projects need to be expedited in the North, Arkhom said. These projects include expansion of Chiang Mai airport, which now accommodates 10 million passengers per year. The other three airports - in Lampang, Prae and Nan provinces - have seen some congestion, prompting plans to enlarge their runway capabilities. An airport in Tak province is scheduled to provide services in May 2018.
Sansern Kaewkamnerd, government spokesman, said that the Cabinet meeting yesterday acknowledged the value of the transportation infrastructure development plan for the North in promoting broader development and economic connectivity with Greater Mekhong Sub-region, with an investment budget of Bt135 billion for road transport in the region from 2014-18.
WITH PROGRESS made in rail projects in Laos and Thailand, China has advanced its dream of a trans-Asian railway network to link Southeast Asia. But no one can predict when the dream will become true, as many countries in the region remain at different stages of development and commitment.
Long before Chinas Belt and Road Initiative, Asean planned in 1995 to build a railway from Singapore to Kunming, the capital of Chinas Yunnan province. The grouping spent time and money exploring the possibility, but the project was never implemented until China took action years ago as its own rail industry incorporated world-class technology.
China now has 126,000 kilometres of rail across the country, including 25,000km of high-speed rail. Its main operator, China Railway, has 2.1 million employees with total assets of 7 trillion yuan (Bt34.6 trillion) and 1 trillion yuan revenues per annum.
Chinas railway length is one-tenth of the worlds total, but it accommodates 25 per cent of the worlds railway traffic volume, according to the International Railway Organisation.
Chinas 25,000km of high-speed rail makes up 60 per cent of the worlds total network of that kind. The country operates 5,000 high-speed trains transporting more than 5 million passengers per day. We rank the first in the world in terms of high-speed train operations, said Yang Zhongmin, chairman of China Railway International.
Chinese rail technology is now globally competitive as the state-owned enterprise China Railway is playing a leading role in 50 rail projects in 40 countries around the world, with Asean the main target, he said.
The countrys two related goals are to complete the trans-Asian railway with the potential to develop high-speed networks in each country.
The first 350kph high-speed train for Asean countries has already been initiated in Indonesia for the 142km Jakarta-Bandung route. Construction is expected to begin early this year.
For the dream of the trans-Asian railway, the 440km standard gauge rail in Laos was begun in late December 2016. Construction is expected to be complete by 2021.
After five years of negotiation, the high-speed train project in Thailand is taking shape. Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the ground-breaking of the first phase of Thailand-China high-speed rail project, linking Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima, in December last year.
The second phase will be extended to Nong Khai, which would complete the link to the Lao network expected by 2022. By that time, we will complete the railway corridor from China through Laos to Thailand. It is the middle route of the trans-Asian railway, that was proposed some 20 years ago, Yang said.
While Asean has not chosen a clear route to link Singapore to Kunming, Beijing has made it clear that it wants to develop three major routes: an eastern route via Vietnam, a middle route via Laos, and a western route through Myanmar before connecting to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
In the meantime, China is speeding up construction in its territory. For the eastern route, it has already built a standard gauge railway to the border between China and Vietnam. For the middle route, construction of the railway line from Kunming to Mohan at the border with Laos has begun and is supposed to open in 2020. For the western route, construction from Kunming to Ruili started several years ago and the section will be open in 2025.
Chinas section could be completed in five or six years, but Yang said he could not predict the overall timeline since the development of the railway was closely linked to socio-economic development of other countries and their ability to raise funds.
For the middle route of the trans-Asian railway, the section in Laos has already begun and Thailands section is on the way. Malaysia and Singapore have plans to build a high-speed railway link from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
For the eastern route, the only problem is in Cambodia the planned 200km portion in that country is the missing link. For the western route, Myanmar is planning a section in its territory and considering a future link to Bangkok.
While upgrading the existing rail could make the trans-Asian railway become a reality sooner, different rail gauges in some countries, including Thailand and Cambodia, could cause inconvenience and incur ongoing high operational costs, Yang said.
For the new rail link, Thailand and Laos decided to use standard gauge to fulfil what is expected to be the busiest route in the region, he said. However, while the Thailand-China train would have a maximum operational speed of 250kph, Laoss trains could not move faster than 150kph.
Yang said technical standards in Laos and Thailand were the same but they were in different construction phases
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