Thailand puts high-speed trains back on agenda

[Inkunming--China]  Thai military junta, or the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has approved two high- speed train projects intended to link Thailand and southern China, local media reported Wednesday.

A 737-km route from northeastern Nong Khai province to Map Ta Phut in eastern Rayong province and a 655-km one from Chiang Khong in northern Chiang Rai province to Ban Phachi in central Ayutthaya province will be constructed, Bangkok Post quoted permanent secretary for transport Soithip Traisuth as saying.

The two routes, on which trains will be operated at a maximum speed of 160 km per hour, lowered from 200 km/ph, will cost 741.4 billion baht (23.3 billion U.S. dollars) in total, Soithip said.

The construction of the new routes is scheduled to begin next year and last till 2021, the official said.

High-speed trains used to be part of a Yingluck government- backed bill to borrow 2.2 trillion baht (67.8 billion U.S. dollars) for infrastructure construction, which was ruled unconstitutional in March.

The earlier plan reportedly called for four high-speed lines connecting Thai capital Bangkok with Rayong province, Chiang Mai province, Nong Khai and Padang Besar in Malaysia, respectively.

Soithip said the urgent projects were aimed at improving connections within the country's transport network which comprised gateways to border trade, key cities, seaports, airports, and cargo rail transport centers.

A working group consisting of the National Budget Bureau and the Transport Ministry is expected to arrive at a conclusion concerning the funding sources in a month, she said.

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