China and Japan set for another high-speed railway fight

BANGKOK — Thailand and Malaysia are set to start talks on the construction of a 1,500km high-speed railway that would connect the two countries’ capitals and enhance regional connectivity.

Arkhom Termpittayapaisiht, Thailand’s transport minister, told the Nikkei Asian Review that he hopes to meet with his Malaysian counterpart soon. “We will discuss how we can get foreign countries involved in the project like ‘China or Japan’ or ‘China and Japan,'” he said. “But Malaysia seems to have more favor in China.”

The Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur route is a large section of the pan-Asia railway network plan — initially proposed by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at a 1995 meeting of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The idea was to build a rail network that runs all the way from Singapore, to the southern Chinese city of Kunming, through Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

Much of the existing rail network is old and unsuitable for high speed trains. Modernization work is underway to improve mobility of people and goods and help boost the regional economy.

“ASEAN cities should be connected by high speed rail,” Arkhom said, adding that, unlike air routes, a railway connection “can promote cities along the railway line.”

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