In a recent announcement, Rachada Dhnadirek, the Deputy Government Spokesperson, shared some optimistic projections regarding the Thai-Chinese high-speed rail project. A much-awaited development, the second phase of the rail venture, is set to gain Cabinet sanction by the end of this year. The thrilling news doesn’t stop there with reports indicating that operations linked to the project’s first phase will be unfurling by 2026.
Rachada gave these insights into the fast-paced rail endeavour, post the 30th meeting of the joint committee focused on Thai-Chinese rail cooperation. The high-level meeting was headed by a caretaker government. Unveiling some intricate details, she stated that an agreement has been reached between Thailand and China to move forward with the project’s second phase that strengthens the link between Nakhon Ratchasima and Nong Khai. Elaborative discussions are impending, post the critical tripartite meeting concentrating on rail network evolution across Thailand, China, and Laos.
The cost-intensive second phase, a staggering journey of 356 kilometres, is poised to drain 300 billion baht from coffers. An exciting blend of a 185-kilometre ground track and a 171-kilometre elevated track, the phase brings into its fold stations at Bua Yai, Ban Phai, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, and Nong Khai. Strikingly, construction activities are expected to spring to life from 2024, powered by a slew of 13 contracts – a dozen based on construction and one devoted to the intricate railroad signalling system.
Preparations are in full swing for the operationalization of the project in 2028, with planned facilities including a light maintenance centre nestled in the heart of Nong Khai’s Natha district and a central maintenance centre in Ayutthaya’s Chiang Rak Noi. Concurrently, The State Railway of Thailand is leaving no stone unturned in carrying out an exhaustive environmental impact assessment.
Adding another feather to the cap, Rachada shed light on a coordination panel for overseeing the network functioning across Thailand, Laos, and China. Intriguingly, the Thai section in Nong Khai will be bridging Vientiane in Laos and Kunming in China’s southern Yunnan province. The committee will devote its attention to traffic management on the prominent rail bridge that crosses the Mekong River as they keenly anticipate the rise of a new bridge. Simultaneously, checks are being conducted on the existing bridge’s robustness.
Planning is afoot for a new bridge, a joint endeavour by the Thai and Lao governments, at a mere 30 metres from the current bridge. A detailed feasibility study is being carried out, with a preliminary report predicted for submission to Laos in the immediate future.
Rounding off her insightful revelation, Rachada highlighted the Cabinet’s acknowledgement of the first phase’s swift progress of the Thai-Chinese high-speed rail project. Expected to commence in 2026, it represents an exciting chapter in rail system growth and development. The Transport Ministry is keeping up with these fast-paced strides, proposing the establishment of an agency specifically for supervising the high-speed train system.