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Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur railway

Malaysia and Thailand agreed in September 2016 to study the possibility of a high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Thai counterpart General Prayut Chan-o-cha agreed for the relevant agencies to begin preliminary discussions on the possible link. Najib said both leaders agreed on the need to set in motion the initial study which would complement the proposed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR.

The Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur railway will be a new addition to the 3,900-kilometer pan-Asia railway network that is already taking shape. Thailand and Malaysia are set to start talks on the construction of a high-speed railway (HSR) between their capitals, Japanese media reported on 08 February 2017. Arkhom Termpittayapaisiht, Thailand's transport minister, said discussions will cover which purveyors of high-speed rail expertise will be involved in the project, according to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review. They could be "China or Japan" or "China and Japan," though the Thai minister said Malaysia seems to favor China.

high-speed railways
China will jump at the chance if Thailand and Malaysia ask for help with the planned HSR project, the report said. Japan is also eager, setting the stage for a battle between the two countries. The pan-Asia railway network is tied into China's "One Belt and One Road" (B&R) initiative. Formally called the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the B&R initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 to boost connectivity and trade among Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The pan-Asia railway's long-term goal is to allow trains to run to Singapore from Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Japan's shinkansen bullet train technology is already running in the island of Taiwan, and Japan has also signed deals in India and Thailand. In 2015, however, Japan lost out to China for the Jakarta-Bandung HSR project in Indonesia. Currently Thailand is planning a shinkansen project between Bangkok and Chiang Mai and a Sino-Thai HSR project linking the Laotian border.

A key part of the Belt and Road Initiative is interconnectivity of roads, and building or improving existing cross-border transportation networks is a prerequisite for closer regional cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. Unfortunately, many Southeast Asian countries still lag behind in terms of modern transportation infrastructure, which has hindered their economic development.

The country with a population of less than 70 million received about 40 million tourists last year, of which one-fourth were from China. Yet only one train plies between Bangkok and Pattaya, two of Thailand's most popular cities, from Monday to Friday. Moreover, the trains often take three to four hours to cover a distance that can be negotiated in an hour by a high-speed train. This lack of modern traffic infrastructure is preventing Thailand from fulfilling its development potential.

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Page last modified: 05-01-2018 18:50:47 ZULU