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Japan rejects calls to invest in Thailand's bullet train

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BANGKOK – Thailand wants Japan to invest in the Shinkansen-like high-speed railway from Bangkok to Chiang Mai but Japan insists only on offering loans for the project, Bangkok Post reported.

Representatives of Transport Ministry led by the minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith on Wednesday (Feb 7) held a meeting with their Japanese counterparts led by Noriyoshi Yamagami, deputy director-general of the Railway Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Arkhom said that Japan continues to insist on Thailand investing in the entire project.

However, Mr Arkhom said the government’s priority is to first find ways to “minimise debt for the government”, regarding investing in the project.

“We have asked (Japan) to come up with solutions to decrease capital investments, in order to minimise debt on our part,” he said. “One of the solutions would naturally be a joint investment (between Thailand and Japan).”

But Japan insisted that it will offer loans with low interest rates for the project instead, he said, adding that further negotiations will take place.

According to the Japanese study, the entire Bangkok-Chiang Mai route will cost 420 billion baht (S$17.5 billion), Bangkok Post said.

Previously, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suggested reducing the train’s maximum speed to 180-200kph to save costs but a study has shown it would not be worthwhile investing in a slower train.

Mr Arkhom insisted the railway will use Shinkansen-style trains, which typically clock a maximum speed of 300kph.

He said the latest discussions regarded cutting certain stations to decrease the project’s capital investment but Japan had initially refused, saying that this would not be worth losing potential passengers who live around the cancelled stations.

At this stage the details are still difficult to finalise, because we also have to hold talks with the Ministry of Finance,” Mr Arkhom said.

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