Construction has begun on several parts of the "Pan-Asia Railway Network," a mega plan that will see three 4,500-5,500 kilometer (2,800-3,400 mile) railway lines link China with mainland Southeast Asia, carrying passengers and freight services.
(H/T to reader Godfree Roberts) Construction of the Kunming – Shanghai leg was completed last week.
In southwest China’s Yunnan province, construction of a high-speed railway connecting the capital city of Kunming with Shanghai has just been completed. The high-speed railway is the first for Yunnan. The route is about 380 kilometers and connects the remote southwest with the prosperous eastern China. Engineers say there were great challenges during construction, but they were overcome. Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, but engineers managed to build nearly 130 bridges and 40 tunnels.
Test runs of the railway will be conducted in June, with plans open to the public by the end of the year. It will allow people who live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to take a 55 minute flight to Kunming then board a 4 hour train to Shanghai, which will connect them to the rest of China's 20,000 km High Speed Rail network.
The Kunming-Singapore central line will cross Laos and Thailand before heading south towards Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and then Singapore. The eastern line will run through Vietnam and Cambodia before linking up with the central line in Bangkok. The western line will cross more of southwestern China and much of Myanmar before joining up in Bangkok.
The cities of Kunming and the Thai capital, Bangkok, will serve as the main hubs for the network.
High and medium-speed rail services are expected to connect 10 major cities between Kunming in China and Singapore. China is negotiating with seven Southeast Asian countries.
Transport analyst Dr. Ruth Banomyong thinks the economic benefits of a modern railway network are now too tempting for many poorer Southeast Asian countries to pass up.
"High speed rail is very expensive and none of the countries - Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, or Cambodia - can really afford one," Banomyong, who is a professor at Bangkok's Thammasat University, told DW.
He added that there is also a question mark over the cost of the proposed route through Thailand, a middle income country. Although the costs for the whole project haven't been revealed, the Thai section alone is estimated to be worth 20 billion euros ($23 billion.)
Construction has already finished on the Vietnam stretch of the rail link, while work got underway last December to connect landlocked Laos to Kunming.
China is also bidding to build high speed railway lines in India and has proposed a direct rail link to the Iranian capital, Tehran.
The rail route between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur already exists but the contract to upgrade to high-speed lines is expected to be taken by the end of the year. Local media reports suggest that Singapore prefers a Japanese or European bidder but Malaysia favors a Chinese firm.
Construction of sections connecting China with Vietnam, China with Myanmar and Laos with Vietnam are under way.
SOURCES - Deutsche Welle, Wikipedia,