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Saturday, March 14, 2015, 11:46

Sino-Thai accord reached on rail project engineering

By ZHAO YANRONG
 Sino-Thai accord reached on rail project engineering
A view of a railway track in Honghe Prefecture, Yunnan province, in a 2014 file photo. The station dating back to 1910s is said to be one of China's oldest railway stations. (Photo/IC)

China and Thailand are to cooperate on a prominent form of contracting agreement relating to building a railway linking the two countries.

The agreement, known as an engineering procurement construction pattern, will cover a standard gauge dual-track system.

Further details on investment and funding are likely to be finalized in May, Thai officials said.

The two delegations met this week in Nong Khai in northeastern Thailand for the third round of talks on the Sino-Thai railway cooperation project.

Reports said officials visited Nong Khai to inspect locations for the project. Nong Khai province has high potential to become an interchange for passengers connecting between trains from Kunming in southwestern China to services running to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

The long-anticipated project, which will see trains running at up to 180 km an hour, has been postponed because of political turbulence in Thailand.

The signing of the latest agreement was witnessed by Premier Li Keqiang and his Thai counterpart, Prayut Chan-o-cha, in December during the fifth Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok.

Under the agreement, Chinese companies will also design and build rail routes to ease transportation into and out of Bangkok-the second-largest city in Southeast Asia after Jakarta. The 734-km project will connect Nong Khai province with the Thai capital. A 133-km branch line will be built to the eastern Thai province of Rayong.

Prajin Juntong, Thailand's transport minister, said the Thai and Chinese governments agreed to cooperate on an engineering procurement construction pattern at the meeting and also discussed issues including investment, human resource development and technology transfer.

Thailand will carry out an environmental impact assessment and be in charge of land acquisition for the construction work, Bangkok Post reported.

The two countries also reached agreement on sharing the work. Details of this will be discussed again at the fourth meeting of the joint working group in Kunming, Yunnan province, from May 6 to 8, Prajin said.

An official source familiar with the project said that under the engineering procurement agreement, Thailand will be responsible for the civil engineering work and infrastructure, while China will be in charge of systems and technical issues.

Thai media reports had said that the Thai government is the project owner, with China responsible for designing, constructing and buying track systems and equipment.

International affairs observer Zheng Xin said reports in Thailand before the meeting that stated China had insisted on lending money to Thailand at a high interest rate did not make any sense.

 
 
 
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