China-Thailand railway under smooth construction

By Sun Guangyong, People’s Daily

The construction of the China-Thailand railway, a landmark project representing the high-quality construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is currently under full swing.

Crossing Thailand’s most densely populated areas, the railway will inject new impetus into developing the country’s economy and transportation.

Upon completion, the railway is expected to boost economic development along its route. It will be connected to the China-Laos railway, forming a railroad artery that crosses the Indochina Peninsula and accelerating regional infrastructure connectivity.

Pak Chong district in northeast Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima province is an important gateway connecting central Thailand and northeastern provinces. The Nakhon Ratchasima province is the terminal of the first phase project of the China-Thailand railway. Currently, the construction of the first phase project is in full swing.

At the project’s construction site, piers of viaducts are erected along an existing track’s direction. To ensure the quality of the construction, Viloth, deputy head of a construction supervising team of the project, takes a boom lift every week to dozens of meters high to inspect the top of the piers.

“The Chinese teams have brought advanced philosophies, modern technologies, and management experiences to Thailand’s railway construction. Building the railway better connects Thailand and China and brings the two peoples closer,” said Viloth.

The China-Thailand railway promotes the idea of green transport and has applied green and low-carbon technologies during its construction. It will be built into a green railway with technological innovation and ecology-friendly development.

Apart from Nakhon Ratchasima province, the construction of the China-Thailand railway has also commenced in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Saraburi, and other provinces along the route.

The largest project is sections 4-3 in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya province. So far, 1,912 foundation piles have been driven, 106 bearing platforms built, and 17 piers erected. Prefabricated beams are neatly placed at the site and will be used for the viaduct construction.

“We completed a blueprint for the civil works of the first phase project in June 2019. The civil works currently underway include bridges, roadbeds, tunnels, and station buildings,” said Ma Shengshuang, head of the Thai branch of China Railway Design Corporation.

The first phase project connects Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima province, and the second phase will extend the track to Nong Khai province, an essential town for border trade in northeast Thailand that faces Lao capital Vientiane just across a river. The second phase is expected to connect the railway with the China-Laos railway.

The Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal in Bangkok will be made into a transfer station for the China-Laos-Thailand high-speed railway and the Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore high-speed railway.

According to Nirut Maneephan, governor of the State Railway of Thailand, 16.72 percent of the China-Thailand railway’s first phase project construction had been completed as of mid-January this year, and the railway is expected to be put into operation in 2027.

He said that the project’s second phase is expected to start in 2024 and aims to open in 2028.

Recently, a Thai railway and customs officials delegation visited Laos to discuss cooperation. The China-Laos-Thailand railway is likely to cut the cost of cargo transport by 30 to 50 percent in the next three to five years.

Thailand has stepped up its efforts in the past year to integrate itself into the China-Laos-Thailand railway, including upgrading its domestic transport network and railway facilities and improving the capacity of cargo warehousing, distribution, and inspection in its northeast region.

The China-Laos-Thailand railway is believed to significantly promote sub-regional development and bring the Indochina Peninsula into an era of high-speed railways.

Nirut noted that the high-speed railway network would connect regions in Thailand and form a railway system of the ASEAN. When all high-speed railway projects are connected, they will become a massive railway network for passengers and cargo that links China, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, and Thailand.

Surasit Thanadtang, director of the Thai-Chinese Strategic Research Center under the National Research Council of Thailand, said the railway network is expected to strengthen connectivity among Southeast Asian countries and help them gain market opportunities.

The alignment between the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 and the BRI will further strengthen connectivity, lower logistics costs, and promote personnel exchanges, thus creating more opportunities for countries along the Belt and Road and promoting regional integration.

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