BANGKOK: Thailand expects the first leg of an 873 km high-speed railway connecting it to China to begin operations in 2026, a senior official said on Tuesday (Jan 18), three years later than planned,
Phase one links the capital Bangkok to the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, about 200 km away. Phase two connects Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai, bordering Laos, about 330 km further north.
The second phase is currently under environmental assessment and is expected to begin service in 2028, said government deputy spokeswoman Traisulee Traisaranakul.
The project comes under China's ambitious Belt and Road initiative, which aims to link the world's second-largest economy by land corridors and sea links to Southeast, Central and South Asia and Central Asia, and with maritime routes opening up trade with the Middle East and Europe.
In early December, a rail link between Laos and China began operations. Trade at the Thai-Laos border that month reached 6.9 billion baht (US$208.84 million), compared to 4.64 billion baht in December 2020, Traisulee said.
Thai and Chinese state firms signed agreements worth 5.2 billion baht for the project in 2017 but saw delays over disagreements on design, financing and technical assistance.