Plan mulled to expand high-speed rail system

Transport officials are devising a plan to expand the high-speed train project from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai in the far Northeast, aiming to step up work to build a rail network from Thailand to Laos and China.

The extension plan follows the recent Thai-Sino deal to build a 253km rail route from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. A new rail section could be built to Nong Khai, a border province opposite the Lao capital of Vientiane.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said yesterday he told officials to begin the survey and design of the new rail route right after the deal was signed on Monday as these stages could be time-consuming.

The minister has told officials to start looking into the details of the second phase of the project and encouraged them to "speed up" jobs so that the rail route is built at the same pace as those to be built in China and Laos. The countries are going ahead with a high-speed train project to link Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southern China, and Vientiane.

Mr Arkhom said a section of rail track in Laos will take about four years to finish, which is expected to be the same period of the construction of the northeastern route in Thailand.

"We should eventually be connected with Laos in 2021 or 2022," he said.

The high-speed railway from Kunming to Vientiane and Bangkok is part of the "One Belt One Road" initiative, Beijing's ambitious plan to build a network of Trans-Asia transport systems.

Mr Arkhom is confident work on the Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai section will be smooth after problems on the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section were solved, leading to the deal between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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