Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called for accelerating the pace of construction on the China-Thailand high-speed railway, part of an ambitious Southeast Asian network.
As part of the “Belt and Road” initiative backed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, China plans to establish a high-speed rail network from Kunming in southwest China to Singapore in the south. The plan involves three routes starting in Kunming, passing through Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, eventually reaching Bangkok. However, construction of the Thai section has faced delays, caused by issues such as cost-sharing and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A first segment of the China-Thailand high-speed railway, ready in 2027
During talks with Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin in Bangkok, Wang stressed the need to advance the rapid implementation of the China-Laos-Thailand connectivity concept.
According to Thai authorities, the first phase of construction from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima is more than 15% complete and is expected to be operational by 2027. The second phase is expected to be completed by 2028.
In 2016, the Thai section experienced a delay when Bangkok rejected Chinese financing due to perceived high interest rates. Subsequently, Thailand agreed to cover the entire construction cost of 179 billion baht ($5 billion) for the 252km first phase, with China responsible for installing the systems, designing and purchasing the trains. The second phase aims to connect Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai province on the border with Laos and eventually link to China.