Bangkok to Beijing train trip gets closer


TRAIN travel between the cities of Bangkok and Beijing is inching closer as Thailand prepares to expand its rail network.

The South-East Asian nation will run a trial service between Bangkok and Laos’ capital of Vientiane between July 13 and 14, according to the State Railway of Thailand.

When up and running, the new link will improve transport between the two countries and China, Ekarat Sriarayanphong, an official at the railway agency, said in a statement.

The launch of the Thailand-Laos connection will mean it’s possible to travel by train from Bangkok to China’s capital via stops in Vientiane and the southern Chinese city of Kunming, where there is a separate semi-high speed service to Beijing.

The roughly 3,200km journey, though the area’s mountainous terrain adds to the distance, will take almost a full day. That compares with just short of five hours for a non-stop flight.

There’s already a high-speed train operating between China and Laos that offers a route for Thai goods to be transported via rail to Kunming, according to a Nikkei report. That’s helped reduce delivery times to China to 15 hours from the two days it takes for trucks to carry freight along the mountainous route, it said.

Thailand is looking to improve its connectivity with China, its top trading partner, to help boost economic growth that’s lagging behind regional peers.

The South-East Asian nation’s exports to China totalled almost US$32bil in the first 11 months of last year, with top products including fruit and rubber products, according to government data.

Thailand’s imports from China were valued at US$65.3bil in the same period, led by sectors including electric equipment and machinery.

Beyond trade, the two nations are also forging closer tourism ties.

Visitors from China can stay for up to 60 days in Thailand, while tourists from Thailand can stay in China for 30 days.

The tourism sector is set to get a further boost from a separate, albeit much-delayed, project that will see a high-speed rail system link Thailand to China through Laos by 2028. — Bloomberg

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