China, Myanmar plan high-speed rail link

Beijing, Nov 22 (IANS) China and Myanmar will soon hold discussions on a high-speed rail link between the two countries that is expected to boost trade and economic development in the region, a media report said Monday.

The rail link, covering 1,920 km, will connect China’s Kunming city, the capital of Yunnan province, with Myanmar’s largest city Yangon.

The talks will begin in about two months, said Wang Mengshu, a rail expert with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The trains will run at a speed of 170-200 kmph once the link is completed, he added.

Wang, who is also a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, has been involved in high-speed rail projects in China.

A high-speed rail connection between southwestern China and Cambodia is also under discussion, Wang told China Daily in an interview.

An exploratory survey for another route that would link Yunnan and Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is under way.

The three new rail connections being discussed, along with another linking China and Vietnam, will form a network that is likely to be completed within 10 years, Wang said.

‘The project, which aims to boost cooperation between China and Southeast Asian nations, will greatly enhance the economic development of China’s western regions,’ said Wang.

A national rail plan will see the network extended to 120,000 km by the end of 2020 and to 170,000 km by the end of the 2030, Wang said.

After its completion, 60 percent of the country’s railways will be located in western China.

A spokesman of the railway ministry said a detailed construction plan to link Southeast Asian nations is not yet been finalised, but confirmed that the ministry has set up working groups with these countries.

Piamsak Milintachinda, Thailand’s ambassador to China, earlier said that a Chinese ministerial team went to Thailand in August to gauge the investment environment for a high-speed railway, as well as a rail network connecting Thailand, China and other Southeast Asian countries.

A proposed 240-km high-speed railway in Thailand, estimated to cost about $25.6 billion and first such line in that country, will connect Bangkok with Rayong, the industrial base in the east of the country.

Thailand has long intended to upgrade its network and learn from China’s experience in ‘operating a high-speed rail system’, the ambassador said.

Chinese experts believe that China has the technical ability to carry out the project, but other considerations may come into play.

‘There is no technological barrier to building high-speed railways to Southeast Asian countries but China needs to take profitability into account,’ said Ji Jialun, a professor with Beijing Jiaotong University.

Chinese companies are upgrading technology to keep up with innovation and growth in the high-speed rail industry and are well positioned to benefit from increased interest in high-speed rail routes.

China’s high-speed trains have clocked speeds as high as 416.6 kmph, according to Zhao Xiaogang, chairman of the China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp, the largest listed railway equipment maker in China.

‘Europe, the US, Russia, India, Brazil and the Middle East are all mulling over plans to develop high-speed railways, indicating a boom in the industry globally,’ Zhao added.

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