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China to help Thailand-Laos railway construction

The building of a high-speed rail network, a major Belt and Road project, in Thailand is set to start this year. It’s a complicated design involving both China and Thailand, but agreements have been reached in many areas.

At Bangkok railway station, people are waiting to depart the aging train to Nong Khai, on Thailand’s northern border with its neighbor Laos. The 620-kilometer journey can take up to 14 hours. Only the poor, and those with time on their hands, take this train.

But China and Thailand have an ambitious plan. In a key project under Belt and Road, the two countries are collaborating to build a multi-million dollar high-speed rail network. At around 200 kilometers per hour, it would shorten the travel time between Bangkok and Nong Khai to just four hours. More importantly, the vision is to connect to a new network being built in Laos, which would travel all the way to Kunming in southern China. In the other direction, the train would head south through Malaysia to Singapore, creating a truly Pan-Asian rail network.

A high-speed train would offer an alternative to travel by sea and air, for both passengers and freight.

China is also building a new railway in Laos, cutting a swathe through the mountainous country over 154 bridges and through 76 tunnels.

For people who are using the current railway network and for the many who do not, a new high-speed train can’t come quickly enough.