High-speed rail lines starting soon from China’s Yunnan to Yangon, Malaysia, Singapore , Cambodia, Thailand and Laos

Source: Yangon rail line to start soon: Chinese official By Kyaw Hsu Mon and Agencies in  



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WORK on a high-speed rail line linking Yangon to China’s Yunnan province, as well as Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, is expected to start within two months, China Daily newspaper reported on November 21.

Should the plan come to fruition, the 1920-kilometre (1200 miles) Yunnan-Yangon line will be able to carry trains travelling at up to 240 kilometres an hour (km/h).


China scholars told The Hindu newspaper that the lines were part of a wider effort to deepen engagement with its Southeast Asian neighbours, officials said last week. According to Wang Mengshu, a consultant for the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said studies are also being conducted to link Yunnan’s capital – Kunming – with Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

In August, the Ministry of Railways also sent a team to Thailand to explore investing in a US$25.6-billion, 240km/h high-speed railway and rail network.

Mr Wang, who is a professor with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told The Hindu in an interview earlier this year that construction had already begun on a line connecting Kunming with Singapore.

 The Southeast Asian network, he said, could be completed as early as 2020. Beijing’s increased infrastructure investment in Southeast Asia, analysts say, is part of a larger effort to expand economic and strategic influence in the region. Beijing hopes the investment will also ease anxieties among its ASEAN neighbours over the impact of China’s rising economic influence.

China ratified the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) pact with the regional bloc but in the process has created a fast-widening trade imbalance in its favour, in part fuelled by the flooding of the ASEAN market with Chinese goods. This has led to strains in commercial relationships with many ASEAN countries. The trade deficit grew to $21.6 billion last year. A number of countries have also voiced concern over the pattern of Chinese investments, which have generally targeted resources such as oil and minerals.

One concern for China is how it will recoup its vast investments in projects such as the high-speed rail lines. “There is no technological barrier to building high-speed railways to Southeast Asian countries but China needs to take profitability into account,” Ji Jialun, a professor at the Beijing Jiaotong University, told the China Daily.

One proposal that has been mooted by China’s Ministry of Railways calls for equivalent access to resources in countries where China invests in such projects.

The national network will reach 120,000km by 2020, and 60 percent of the railway lines will be located in China’s western regions, which have historically lagged the coastal east on most development indicators.

Dr Maung Maung Lay, general secretary of Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), said the plan to link China with Myanmar by rail offered exciting transport possibilities.

“Trains are the most convenient transportation method for moving commodities between China and Myanmar. It’s much cheaper than road or air and I would imagine that this would also help China to increase the number of seaports it can access,” he said.

“But it would also make transporting goods from Myanmar to Yunnan far easier, and Yunnan is the end destination for many of the country’s exports.”

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