Officials have said construction of a US$12 billion Chinese-backed railway through Thailand will begin in September.
Thailands trains are notoriously slow, and its tired tracks will be replaced as part of what Beijing hopes will be a network eventually linking Kunming with Singapore.
Thailand currently has just 250 kilometers of dual track railway, but Bangkok intends to lay down two new lines, the longest of which will run 734 kms through Thailand, from northern Nong Khai province, on the border with Laos, to Map Ta Phut, southeast of Bangkok.
Thailand’s Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said construction would be done in four stages, the total cost of which are expected to be around 400 billion baht (US$12 billion. “The first two phases will start by September or October at the latest this year and will take around two and a half years to complete,” he said.
Completion of all stages is expected around 2020 with further meetings to be held in Beijing in February to decide the level of Chinese involvement.
Last month Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Thai leader Prayut Chan-Ocha, signed an agreement on the railway’s construction, with Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai telling reporters “This is a new era in Thailand and China’s relationship”.