China's railway projects in Thailand, Laos to start

By Guo Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 22, 2015
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China's high-speed railway models on display for the first time, at the China-ASEAN Expo, held in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region from Sept. 18 to 21, 2015. [Guo Yiming /]

China's high-speed railway projects are finally gaining ground in Southeast Asia, as top government officials in Thailand and Laos attending the 12th China-ASEAN Expo indicated the construction in both countries might start before the end of this year.

Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Tanasak Patimapragorn said his country's 840-kilometer project may start this December, linking the northern city of Nong Khai with Bangkok.

Laos is also determined to have a high-speed railway project with cooperation from China in order to transform the landlocked country, according to its Deputy Prime Minister Somsava Lengsavad who gave a speech in fluent Mandarin during the opening ceremony of the 12th China-ASEAN Expo and Business and Investment Summit on Sept. 18, 2015.

As Laos' largest investor, China is also going to help launch a man-made satellite for the southeast country, according to Somasava, who saw both projects as being of historical and strategic significance to the country whose lack of infrastructure remains a massive headache.

The Thai Deputy Prime Minister added that China's "Belt and Road" initiative prompted the realization of the railway project which had gone through 10 years of tough negotiations.

China is looking to build a high-speed line from Kunming all the way down to Singapore, passing through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia, a project that would increase China's GDP and those of the involved nations by US$375 billion, according to China Railway Corp.

China's railway industry has not gained a presence in the ASEAN region overnight. Beijing had lobbied heavily, trying to sweeten the terms of its bid to become more competitive faced with strong rivals like Japan.

"We have encountered many problems during the bidding process overseas such as the one when Indonesia decided to scrap plans for its first high-speed railway at the last minute," said a company official. "But we weren't discouraged and continue to market the advantage of China's high-speed railway to the overseas public as well as related authorities."

Deputy Prime Minister Somsava Lengsavad said the most troublesome problems had been solved and hoped that the project could be launched before Dec. 2, which is the 40th anniversary of the founding of the republic.

Laos only had 6.5 km of antiquated railway, and its population of six million has had to make do with a dilapidated road network being little more than a chain of muddy potholes. The country, which suffered decades of war in the 20th century, is eager to achieve transformation from landlocked backwoods to globally linked manufacturing hub.

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