After years of rocky negotiations over costs, work on Thailand’s first high-speed railway, financed by China, saw a modest start on 21 December.
Estimated to cost more than $5bn, the 253km line will eventually stretch from Bangkok to the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, travelling 250km/h. This is the first phase of a more ambitious plan eventually to link Thailand to China through Laos.
However, the phase that kicked off ceremonially on Thursday covers just 3.5km, between two stations in Bangkok, Klang Dong and Pang Asok, reports The Bangkok Post.
Visitor view a model of the first phase of the high-speed railway linking Bangkok with Nakhon Ratchasima province in Pak Chong, Thailand (Xinhua/Li Mangmang)
Marking the occasion, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a letter that the China-Thailand high-speed railway is a flagship project in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, reports state news agency Xinhua.
Agreed by the two countries by a memorandum of understanding in 2014, the deal was called off by Thailand in March 2016 after the two sides failed to strike a bargain over the total cost. Other areas of disagreement included investment-sharing, the interest rates to be paid on Chinese loans and development rights to land along the eventual 873km line.
But in July this year the two governments had settled on a price of $5.2bn for the first phase to Nakhon Ratchasima, and resolved other issues.
Top image: Officials pose for the start of work on Thailand’s first high-speed railway in Pak Chong, Thailand, 21 December 2017 (Xinhua/Li Mangmang)