Thailand moving ahead with high speed rail plans that will eventually be part of a high speed rail network from China to Laos, Malaysia and Singapore

Thailand’s military government approved a massive budget to upgrade the country’s railways including high-speed rail that would eventually link with China as part of an eight-year plan to improve infrastructure. The junta approved 741.46 billion baht ($23.3 billion) to build two high-speed train routes that will connect Thailand’s industrialized eastern seaboard with its northern and the northeastern borders.

They plan for a 737-kilometer line from northeastern Nong Khai province to Map Ta Phut in eastern Rayong province, and a 655-kilometer line from Chiang Khong in northern Chiang Rai province to Ban Phachi in central Ayutthaya province.

The junta’s high-speed trains will travel at 160 kilometers (99 miles) per hour, slower than proposed by the ousted government, and will eventually “provide links to the north to China and Laos and down to Malaysia and Singapore,” said Soithip, who is also the acting transport minister.

China has deepened economic ties with many Southeast Asia countries despite tensions over Beijing’s claims to most of the South China Sea. Rail links that extend deep into the region would boost trade and other commerce with China, the world’s No. 2 economy.

The construction of the two routes, from Nong Khai in the northeast and Chiang Khong in the north, will start in 2015 and should be completed by 2021.

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