BANGKOK, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Thailand will start the construction of the first phase of the Thailand-China railway project in October, or no later than November, once the environmental impact assessment report is approved, said Thai Minister of Transport Arkhom Termpittayapaisith in an interview with Xinhua.
Thailand and China signed two contracts, namely the design contract and the supervision contract, for the 253-km first phase project earlier this month, which will link Thai capital Bangkok and the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.
"Once the relevant environmental impact assessment report from Baan Pachi in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province and Nakhon Ratchasima Province is approved, we will try to start the construction of the first section in October. If we cannot do that, we will definitely start in November, " Arkhom told Xinhua recently.
The transport minister said that his ministry has submitted the environmental impact assessment report for 5 times to a committee under the Environmental Impact Evaluation Bureau, and hoped that it will be approved this time. "We have submitted all detailed information of the project and it should be approved this time."
The first section, only 3.5 km in length, will be built by the Department of Highways attached to the Transport Ministry in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.
The construction of other sections, the second 11 km section, the third 119.5 km section and finally the fourth 119 km section, will begin gradually.
According to Arkhom, to fully start the construction of the project, they still need to have detailed design of other sections to be put out to tender.
"The Chinese side said they will finish the detailed design of the whole project in 8 months after we signed the design contract."
The 253 km project is set to cost some 179 billion baht (5.4 billion U.S. dollars).
The Thai government will pay for the construction by issuing bonds or seek loans from banks, the minister said, adding his country is also considering loans from a Chinese bank for the signal system, tracks, trains etc.
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. But 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.
"We will talk about making plans for the second phase and geological surveys on Sept. 22 in China," Akhorm said.
He said the Thai side hopes to invest by itself to build the second phase, and also hopes both the first phase and second phase of the project will be open to the public at the same year as the China-Laos railway, which is under construction now and set to open to the public in 2022.
The transport minister also said he was quite confident of the quality of the Chinese high-speed railway technology as it has built the world's largest high-speed train network.
"China has built over 20,000 km of high-speed railways. The Chinese people take high-speed trains every day, and the Chinese side has kept telling me safety and security is their priority, so I am confident of the Chinese technology."
He also mentioned that China has agreed to transfer technology to Thais to enable them to drive, maintain and repair high-speed trains.
Thailand's long-term goal is to manufacture some components of the rails and the trains as it hopes the railway cooperation can enhance Thai people's skills and boost development of Thai industry, he said.
"We want to have this ability to manufacture some components to replace those worn components," Arkhom said, adding that by this way Thailand can also decrease the cost of maintenance.
He emphasized the importance of developing human resources for the railway and train industry.
"Railways can be used for over 100 years, so we have to have universities, colleges and schools to foster the ability of engineers and workers to maintain our railways and also move forward according to new trends."