Not taking no for an answer, China Railway Group says high-speed project in Thailand ‘still on’
China Railway Group said it is proceeding as planned on the China-Thailand railway project, despite Thailand’s surprise announcement last month that it had decided against Chinese financing and would instead invest in a shorter rail network itself.
“From what we learnt from China Railway, the plan hasn’t changed. Recently we have also been asked to submit the name of the contractor for the project,” China Railway Group chairman Li Changjin said in Hong Kong on Thursday. “Of course, there are things the two countries are still negotiating...It is a bargaining process. It always has been.”
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last month said Thailand would itself fund its rail project, which would now be two-thirds of what was planned originally, as the two sides could not agree on the terms of financing. Bangkok’s decision came as a fresh setback to a project already delayed by several rounds of negotiations since a memorandum of agreement was signed in December 2014. China and Thailand also held a groundbreaking ceremony for the project in December 2015.
Li also said work would only begin on a part of its high-speed railway project in Indonesia this year connecting Jakarta and Bandung. The US$5.1 billion joint venture with four Indonesian state-owned firms only received construction permit for the first 5km because of lack of details on the design and field data.
“There’s still a lot of work to do on environmental assessment, design, and so on. The condition for full commencement is not ripe yet. We’ll first build the 5km experimental section,” Li said.
He stressed the overall plan for the high-speed railway project in Indonesia has not changed. “It is a commercial project, there is no government credit guarantee involved.”
China Railway Group is one of the country’s largest infrastructure builders along with China Railway Construction Group. Last week it reported a net profit rise of 13.8 per cent to 11.7 billion yuan (HK$14.04 billion) for 2015, on the back of a 1.7 per cent revenue increase to 600 billion yuan.
Li said the group signed 30 per cent more overseas contracts last year, and aims to increase the proportion of overseas revenue to more than 10 per cent by 2020, from 5 per cent at present.
China Railway Group was among a consortium of Chinese state-owned infrastructure firms that in September won the tender with XpressWest to build a 370km high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, a first for China in its efforts to export its high-speed rail to the US.
China Railway last week also unveiled its first overseas headquarters in Kuala Lumpur – an investment of US$2 billion, according to the company. It bought 60 per cent of the 2 million square metre site from Malaysia state fund 1MDB for 5.28 billion ringgit (HK$9.5 billion) together with Malaysia’s Iskandar Waterfront in a bid to gain the right to develop a high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which will start from Bandar Malaysia in the capital.
“This lays a very good foundation for our bid for the project,” Li said, but added the date of bidding is yet to confirmed.