Thailand approves $10bn rail scheme with China

Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has approved a draft memorandum of understanding with China to jointly build a $10.64bn rail project in Thailand as part of a long-term scheme to develop the country’s transport infrastructure.

Speaking at the NLA meeting yesterday, Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said the MoU concerns two railways. One is a 737km route from the northeastern province of Nong Khai to Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong province. The second is a 133km spur to Bangkok, Reuters reported.

"We have not seen any major development in Thailand’s railway operation for 120 years," said an official to The Bangkok Post. "This is the first such development."

Minister Juntong told reporters the project was expected to cost at least 350 billion baht ($10.64 billion) and "will certainly benefit Thailand as it will link transport networks with neighbouring countries".

Under the MoU, the project will be done on government-to-government basis, with China responsible for the construction and development of the rail system, Reuters reported.

Detailed funding and construction costs will be discussed further, the statement said, adding both sides would try their best to start the construction within 2016.

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