The Thai government has ordered the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) design and build a new bridge from Nong Khai Province to Laos in order to connect the country to the Laos-China Railway.
Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the government’s committee on the Thai-Lao-Chinese railway, which he chaired on Thursday, ordered the SRT to quickly make the new bridge a reality.
The new bridge will cross the Mekong River from Nong Khai to Laos and facilitate freight transportation across Thailand, through Laos, and onward into China.
The committee on the Thai-Lao-Chinese railway has been given the green light to request a budget for the project.
The opening of the Laos-China Railway has already made cross-border cargo transport between Thailand and China 24 hours faster than before, with a 25% reduction in cost, according to Mr. Anutin.
The first freight trains began to operate between Nong Khai and Vientiane Capital across the existing Friendship Bridge in August 2019, allowing cargo from a container yard at Thanaleng Railway Station in Vientiane, Laos, to be shipped by train as far as the Laem Chaban seaport in Thailand.
Thailand Eyeing Laos Railway Success
Thailand has kept a close eye on the Laos-China Railway project, which it hopes to access in order to more easily ship its products to China.
The Thai Chamber of Commerce raised concerns last year that the opening of the Laos-China Railway could hurt Thailand’s agricultural economy if Thai businesses were unable to connect to it.
The chamber expressed fears that the Nong Khai border with Thailand could become a gateway for Chinese fruits and vegetables which would flood the market in Thailand.
Fanning the flames further, a Thai media personality who criticized the Laos-China Railway was made to apologize for his careless comments when visiting the Lao Embassy in Bangkok.
Meanwhile, Thailand took on a fleet of secondhand diesel trains from Japan last year that it will use to connect several routes with Nong Khai and Vientiane Capital.
It is expected that Thais and foreign tourists will want to travel on the Laos-China Railway, and will be able to reach Vientiane Capital by train from Udon Thani and Nong Khai provinces in Thailand.