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China's Rail Dream Is Slowly Taking Shape In Thailand

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Thailand's ruling junta, after initially putting on hold the country's high-speed rail projects, has changed its mind. It now plans to build almost 1,400km of high-speed rail track linking it to neighbouring Laos.


The news must come as a relief for China, whose plan to secure cheap, fast overland access to Southeast Asia hit a roadblock when the military seized power in May 22 and put a stop to the Puea Thai party-led government’s mega projects.


While the development would no doubt boost trade, its bilateral implications were also apparent. Sino-Thai relations have grown cosier since the coup as Beijing was quick to recognise the Thai junta. Much of the Western world condemned the power seizure.


Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha personally met visiting Chinese businessmen just two weeks after the coup. Acting Thai foreign minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow visited China last month to take part in a strategic bilateral dialogue.


The junta’s foreign affairs adviser Somkid Jatusripitak followed up this week by meeting Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao. They reportedly discussed how China could participate in Thailand’s infrastructure projects.


"China has a longstanding policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states," says Alexander Neill, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.


Its grand plan, he says, is to secure strategic access through Southeast Asia that will enhance trade as well as its influence in the region, in relation to the United States and Japan.


Nudging this plan even closer to reality are several developments around the region.


Singapore and Malaysia, for example, are in talks to build a high-speed rail link between their capitals.


Meanwhile, landlocked Laos - sandwiched between China and Thailand - wants to build a 420km rail link between the southern Chinese city of Kunming and its own capital, Vientiane.


It needs a US$7.2 billion loan from China just to get the project going. This would amount to almost 90 per cent of its gross domestic product - a financial burden it cannot afford, according to the Asian Development Bank.


The Laotian tracks would run across numerous tunnels and bridges. Still, they would pose a smaller hurdle than the demise of Thailand’s bullet train plan. That would turn the Laotian project into a white elephant, as the more lucrative markets for China actually lie further south, in Thailand.


For several months this year, it did look as if Thailand’s fast train plans were off the table. In March, as anti-government protesters occupied parts of Bangkok, the Constitutional Court threw out a financing plan for the government’s infrastructure projects, which included the high-speed train network.


Two months later, the government was deposed by the military. The new junta promised to scrutinise all large projects and junk superfluous ones.


Since Thailand’s ageing railway system badly needed basic upgrades in the form of double tracks, high-speed rail seemed bound for the chopping block.


Not now. According to the Thai Ministry of Transport, the trains would run at 160kmh rather than the speeds of 200kmh or more seen elsewhere.


One route would travel 655km from the border town of Chiang Khong to Ayutthaya province in central Thailand. Another would see freight carried 737km from Nong Khai, across the Mekong River from Vientiane prefecture, to the Thai port and industrial estate of Map Ta Phut.


China’s grand vision is slowly taking shape.





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Herkey-jerkey decision making.


Think first ... then act.


(This is not criticism. I am happy as I can be in happy land. It's merely an observation.... Sometimes it's best to make decisions and a few days later reverse them. It sometimes improves happiness.)

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Whilst this primarily deals with the Laos part of the Railroad, it covers the whole thing and there's a good graphic, Good article:


Laos; from land locked to land linked




VIENTIANE--LAOS is embarking on one of its most ambitious projects yet – a series of rail networks which will link the country with dominant seaports in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. With a population of about 6.7 million, Laos aims to lift itself from the status of least-developed nation to a middle-income country by 2030 by strengthening international economic partnerships, Savankhone Razmountry, Vice Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, told Asia News Network news editors recently.


In partnership with China, the strategically designed networks are part of the Beijing-inspired One Belt and One Road Initiative, which Laos hopes will help turn it from a land-locked nation into one which effectively links various countries. The beneficial rail networks will serve both passengers and freight, particularly from China’s adjacent southern-most province of Yunnan.


Merchandise will have global market access with the development of not only seaports in Vietnam and Cambodia but also primarily |connecting Thailand’s already well-established Laem Chabang deep-sea port, which lies 670 kilometres south of Vientiane. Thailand itself is developing a railway network with Laos via two rail projects in the Northeast. The first is to double the existing track for freight, in which the terms of reference for construction will be issued by the Thai Transport Ministry this month.


Another is a parallel new high-speed train project in partnership with China. During the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit last week in Xiamen, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha witnessed the signing of the design and supervised draft contracts for the first phase of the railway project, according to Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.





253km track


This first phase is a 253-kilometre-long railway track, which will allow trains to hit speeds of up to 250 km per hour, linking the capital Bangkok to the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.


In the second phase, the line will run from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai on the border with Laos, where it will connect with the China-Laos railway presently under construction. After the whole project steams to completion, Bangkok and Kunming – the capital of Yunnan province in China’s southwest – will be connected by the modern railway. “The railway will be an artery linking Thailand and Laos, China and other countries through China.


It will upgrade Thailand’s role as regional transport hub and contribute to economic growth in the region,†Huang Bin, head of the Chinese department at Kasikorn Research Centre, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying. Laos currently has just 3.5km of track linking Vientiane with Thailand’s rail network in Nong Khai. But this is set to change radically. Work on the Lao-China Rail is already on track, from the Lao border town of Boten.


More than 8 per cent of the work on the 414km route to Vientiane has been done. When completed in 2021, the rail lines will link up with the 3.5km line to Nong Khai. From there, goods can be transported |by Thailand’s own rail network on the 670km journey to Laem Chabang. This deep-sea port is the 15th largest in the world. With the new railway from Laos via Thailand’s northeast, the intake of merchandise by rail is projected to increase to 30 per cent from the current 9 per cent.


Deputy director-general of the Lao Railway Department Sengtha-visay Malivanh said Laos hopes to commence the freight rail journey to Laem Chabang by the end of this year. “We want to start now and not have to wait for 2021. An MoU has already been signed with the Thai Transport Ministry. This will cut transportation costs by trucks, and will be more efficient,†he remarked. Six rail networks Laos is building a container yard at its Thanalaeng Railway Station on the outskirts of Vientiane as an extension of the Laos-Thailand railway. This will extend the track from Thanalaeng Station to Vientiane city centre – a distance of 7.5km – and is expected to be ready by July 2020.


This is one of the six rail network projects in Laos, which has taken on the initiative with a geographical strategy in mind. The others are the Laos-China Railway Project, Savannakhet-Lao Bao to the Vietnamese port of Dongha, Vientiane-Thakhek-Mu Gia to the Vietnamese port of Vung Anh, Thakhek-Savannakhet-Pakxe-Vangtau, and Pakxe-Veunkham (Laos-Cambodian border).


The prized Laos-China Railways project is proving a challenge as Laos has little experience in building, let alone managing, railways. Up to 47 tunnels have to be constructed with the help of 17,000 Chinese workers to accommodate trains from Yunnan. The number is set to rise in the coming years. The US$6.1-billion (Bt202 billion) investment is slated as a public-private partnership under a build-operate and transfer agreement. Lao has a 40 per cent stake in the venture and is forking out $730 million in cash. China, which has the bulk of 60 per cent, is helping to organise a syndication of bank loans.


The joint venture operates on a government-to-government basis with special incentives. These include rights for commercial developments alongside the stations to make the project more commercially viable.200 km/h The passenger trains will be able to reach speeds of up to 200 km per hour on flat land and 160 km/h through mountainous terrain; freight trains will travel at 120 km/hour. The trains will go through 32 stations across five Laotian provinces.


A construction consortium of six Chinese companies has been |specially selected based on their experience as the “hi-tech†nature of the project leaves no room for |mistakes, Lao officials assert. The land to be expropriated on each side of the track is 50 metres on flat land. Negotiations with the owners of land where trains will pass began nine months ago. Pothong Ngonphachanh, another official from the Lao Railway Department, said construction would not begin until compensation to landowners is settled.


He also said more than 100 families near Luang Prabang will have to be moved out to make way for the rail lines. The Lao government is bringing in some 2,500 personnel to operate the train networks on completion. The initial lot of 200 people are being trained now.




Disclaimer - nothing in this post suggests, or is intended to promote, or implies, any negative view, of the female of the Human species in any way shape or form.

Members of this board with limited cognitive functionality, may choose to be outraged, by the lack of gender bias contained in this post, but such outrage is neither sought, nor desired by the author

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And best of all, China is doing this simply out of the goodness of its heart. :)


p.s. The Germans built Thailand's rail lines. I think I'd trust them a bit more than I would Chinese engineers. :surprised:

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And best of all, China is doing this simply out of the goodness of its heart. :)


p.s. The Germans built Thailand's rail lines. I think I'd trust them a bit more than I would Chinese engineers. :surprised:


China has 16 times more passenger-miles than Germany but only 3 times as many fatalities (since mid 1990's) therefore it could be argued that Chinese Railways are over 5 times safer than German


But why let facts interfere with anything

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Some facts, 1990s. Take your pick.





Worst disaster - Rongjiawan, 29 April 1997. 126 dead, 230 injured




Worst disaster - Entschede, 3 June 1998. 101 dead, 194 injured



However, surprisingly enough ...



  1. Railways are the safest means of transportation among all methods in this study.
  2. Railway safety-wise, China and France are about twice as safe as Japan and Germany.
  3. You are about 2.2 times as likely to die in an American airplane as in a Chinese rail car, traveling the same distance.*
  4. You are about 200 times as likely to die in a vehicle on an American highway as in a Chinese rail car, traveling the same distance.



*This is a strange comparison, since when a plane goes splat, most of the time everyone on board dies. That hardly happens when trains crash.

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Damn Lies and statistics can make them read what you want


China used to have an appalling record on Train Safety but over the past 20 years or so (the period I used for my unscientific straw poll analysis) surprisingly safer than Germany and Japan


Everyone assumes that German and Japanese Railways have a better safety record than China, but if one to read the facts and figures, as you have Flash, the data comes as a surprise to many.


I have travelled a lot on Chinese rail network over the past 4 years and it is top notch, China has come on leaps and bounds since the mid nineties

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