Thailand touts $27bn ‘land bridge’ plan to Chinese business

The Malacca Strait off Singapore is the world’s most congested sea corridor. The ‘land bridge’ idea would allow ships to avoid it (dronepicr/CC BY 2.0 Deed)
Thailand’s transport minister has been in Beijing promoting plans for a $27bn land bridge to investors, The Nation newspaper reports.

The idea is to build a pair of deepwater ports on either side of the Thai isthmus linked by a 100km railway and motorway.

This would allow cargo to cross between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand without going through the Malacca Strait off Singapore, the world’s most congested sea corridor.

Suriya Jungrungreangkit presented the scheme at the Grand Hyatt Beijing Hotel on Wednesday.

The event was attended by Chinese entrepreneurs in sectors including logistics, shipping, port management, finance, industrial estate, insurance and construction.

Companies represented included Cosco Shipping Lines, China Harbour Engineering, China Railway International Development, Hutchison Ports, and Xiaomi Corporation.

Suriya also met with Wu Hao, head of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, to discuss ways of speeding up progress on the 873km high-speed rail line between Bangkok and the north Thai border town of Nong Khai.

After the meeting, Suriya confirmed reports earlier this year that the line was set to enter service in 2030, two years later than originally forecast.

The delay to the $9.3bn project has been partly caused by the need to replan part of the route and continual disputes over finance between the Thai and Chinese sides.

The minister said the first phase of the scheme, a 260km stretch between Bangkok and the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, was on track to open in 2028.

The second phase, from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai, has passed an environmental impact assessment and construction scheduled to begin next year, he said.

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