21 June 2020: Niruj Maneepun, Governor of the State Railways of Thailand, announced this week that the State Railway of Thailand has approved a draft of Contract 2.3 for construction of part of the proposed high speed train link between Bangkok and Nong Khai on the border with Laos. The draft contract has been submitted to the Office of the Attorney-General before being approved by Thailand’s Cabinet. The intention is to let the contract by October 2020 and start construction as soon as possible.
Bangkok to Nong Khai High Speed Train Project
Contract 2.3 is the largest of 7 contracts to construct a 652 km high speed train line from Bangkok to Nong Khai. The value of the contract is 50.6 billion baht, which is 28.2% of the total projected budget of 179.4 billion baht for the entire project. The work involved is constructing the track and installing the operating system on the 253 kilometre long section of the route from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.
The agreement of a draft for Contract 2.3 represents a major step forward in the project which has made relatively little progress since the project budget of 179 billion baht was agreed with the Chinese Government in May 2016. A number of issues relating to the routing of the project, such as objections to the plan to upgrade historic Ayutthaya Railway Station and resistance to compulsory purchase orders for land, remain but getting a contract approved by Cabinet to be let will be a major step forward in making Thailand’s first high speed train line a reality.
Train Link to China
The high speed train link from Bangkok to Nong Khai is a major component of the Chinese led Pan Asia Railway Network project which aims to link Kumming in Southern China with Singapore via three routes, one of which which run through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia via Nong Khai and Bangkok. Work on building a train line across the very difficult terrain in Laos has being moving forward rapidly with the construction of literally hundreds of tunnels and bridges in Laos are currently underway. If Thailand is going to get its part of the project finished to coincide with the fast pace of the work in Laos then it needs to speed the work up and for its part the Thai Government is keen to get this project started as it will be massive stimulus to the local economy at time when people are suffering from the Covid-19 related economic downturn.
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