BANGKOK, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Thai cabinet on Tuesday approved an agreement to start the construction of the first phase of Thailand-China railway on Dec. 21, said Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith during a press conference here on Tuesday.
The cabinet also approved the Department of Highways of the Thai Transport Ministry to build the first 3.5-kilometer section, the minister said.
State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department of Highways on Wednesday to authorize the department to do the job, said acting governor of SRT Anont Luangboriboon during the press conference.
The first 3.5 km section is located between two current railway stations, Klang Dong and Pang Asok in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.
Thanin Somboon, Director-General of Department of Highways, said in a press release for media on Tuesday that the department is ready for the construction work and would build the first section and a good example for other sections.
Thanin added that the construction would be a great chance for both Thai and Chinese engineers to learn together.
A ground breaking ceremony is set to be held there on Dec. 21, while the second section of 11 km, the third of 119.5 km and the fourth of 119 km are to open for bidding later.
The 253 km project is set to cost some 179 billion baht (5.4 billion U.S. dollars). The Chinese side is responsible for the design of the railway, supervision of the construction and supplying trains, signal systems, among others.
Once completed, the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima railway with a maximum speed of 250 km per hour will be the first standard gauge high-speed railway of the country.
However, to finally form an artery railway linking Thailand, Laos and China, a 355 km second phase linking Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai on the border with Laos has to be built.
Arkhom said that Thailand and China had begun to discuss the second phase.