Work to start on Asean rail links
Construction of high-speed railways linking southwestern China and Asean countries is set to commence tomorrow, to make possible a 10-hour, 3,900-kilometre trip between Kunming and Singapore in the future, state media reported.
Analysts said the railways would boost China's integration and influence with Southeast Asian countries.
China National Radio said the new railways will link Kunming of Yunan province with Vientiane, capital of Laos. Under a pan-Asian high-speed railways plan, the line will later extend to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, it reported.
Wang Mengshu, a deputy chief engineer with China Railway Tunnel Group, was quoted by 21st Century Business Herald as saying that, besides the line with Southeast Asia, China is planning two other high-speed railway links, to central Asia and Russia.
Talks of building these lines are still under negotiation and it was hoped the networks would be completed by 2025, Wang said. He added that complex terrain may restrict the speed in some parts to below the 200 km/h standard.
However, the Herald quoted officials at Laos' embassy in Beijing as saying that construction work on the section through their country may be deferred because of amendments to the co-operation agreement between China and Laos.
The proposed high-speed rail link will integrate Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members with China and spread prosperity from the wealthier to the less developed Asean nations, according to researchers in Southeast Asian affairs.
They say it will boost economic activity, especially tourism, which will be an effective way of promoting intra-Asean plus China economic activity. A high-speed railway will have greater economic and social impact on the region than air travel because trains stop at several places, while air travel connects only two cities.
The proposed high-speed link pushed by China bypasses Vietnam, which is planning its own 1,570-kilometre high-speed link between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam will adopt Japanese technology for its project, which will cost US$55 billion and take 10 to 15 years to build.
Full speed ahead
China and Southeast Asia may one day be linked by high-speed rail
The number of hours the 3,900-kilometre journey from Kunming to Singapore is expected to take: 10