BANGKOK: Thailand expects the first leg of an 873-kilometer high-speed railway connecting the country to China to open in 2026, three years later than anticipated, according to a senior official.
The first phase connects Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, which is around 200 kilometers away. The second phase connects Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai, which is around 330 kilometers north of Laos.
According to government deputy spokeswoman Traisulee Traisaranakul, the second phase is now undergoing environmental assessments and is slated to commence service in 2028.
The project is part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road strategy, which intends to connect the world’s second-largest economy to Southeast, Central, and South Asia via land corridors and sea links, as well as to the Middle East and Europe via maritime routes.
A rail link between Laos and China was inaugurated in early December. According to Traisulee, trade at the Thai-Laos border that month was 6.9 billion baht (US$208.84 million), up from 4.64 billion baht in December 2020.
In 2017, Thai and Chinese state enterprises signed agreements for the project for 5.2 billion baht, but it was delayed due to differences over design, finance, and technical help.