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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Thailand-China High-Speed Rail Phase 2: $3.4T Connectivity Boost

The Ministry of Transport (MoT) is accelerating efforts to advance the Thailand-China High-Speed Rail (HSR) Phase 2 project, with a budgetary allocation of a staggering 3.4 trillion Baht. Aimed at seamlessly connecting the rail networks of Thailand, China, and Laos, the initiative has gained significant traction within the Green Transportation framework, with a target for construction commencement set within this December.

In a recent update from the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), progress on Phase 1, consisting of 14 contracts, is steadily advancing. Notably, the Ministry of Transport is actively steering the project into its second phase, intending to enhance Thailand’s rail infrastructure for more efficient connectivity with China and Laos.

The focus of the MoT has been on expediting the Phase 2 segment, spanning from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai, covering a distance of 356 kilometers with a budget of 341.35 billion Baht. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports are currently under revision, with the expectation of completion later this month. Subsequently, the MoT will present the revised reports to the Cabinet for consideration in December 2026, and if approved, a public auction for construction contracts is anticipated in the second quarter of 2027, with construction set to commence in December 2027 and conclude within seven years. Signal systems are expected to be operational by July 2028, with full service commencing in 2573.

Land expropriation for the Thailand-China HSR Phase 2 has also progressed, with initial surveys identifying 195 plots from Nakhon Ratchasima to Ban Phai and 1,764 plots from Ban Phai to Nong Khai. The SRT anticipates that the Cabinet’s approval will prompt the initiation of land reclamation efforts.

Regarding the bidding process, the SRT emphasizes the necessity of larger contracts, foreseeing a maximum of 10 contracts to allow broader participation, particularly from smaller contractors. This strategy aims to foster increased competition, enabling smaller contractors to partake in the bidding process and enhance their portfolios.

The HSR’s route design encompasses a 1,435-meter gauge, facilitating a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour. The entire journey from Bangkok to Nong Khai, covering a total distance of 609 kilometers, is estimated to take approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes.

The Phase 2 HSR route, from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai, spanning 356 kilometers, comprises both ground-level and elevated railway segments, totaling 185 kilometers and 171 kilometers, respectively. The five stations along this stretch include Bua Yai, Ban Phai, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, and Nong Khai, with plans for a freight transfer station near Nata Railway Station in Nong Khai province. Additionally, maintenance facilities are slated for construction in Chiang Rak Noi, Ayutthaya province, and Nata, Nong Khai province.

Despite these significant developments, certain challenges persist, particularly in urban areas where infrastructural transitions necessitate the relocation of public utilities and residences. These complexities are expected to elongate the relocation process.

The Thailand-China HSR Phase 2 project not only promises a revolutionary transformation in the nation’s transportation network but also stands as a strategic corridor for bolstering economic ties between Thailand, Laos, and China. As officials deliberate the final details, it is evident that the journey towards seamless connectivity across borders is well underway.

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