Construction of a high-speed rail link between Yunnan province and neighboring Myanmar, part of a project to upgrade transport connections with Southeast Asian nations, will start in about two months, a top rail expert said.
The line, from Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, to Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, will be 1,920 kilometers long, said Wang Mengshu, an academic of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Trains will run at about 170-200 km/h once it is completed, he added.
Wang, who is also a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, has been involved in Chinese high-speed rail projects from the outset.
Wang told China Daily that a high-speed rail connection between southwestern China and Cambodia is also under discussion. And an exploratory survey for another route that would link Yunnan and Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is under way.
The three new rail connections being developed, along with another linking China and Vietnam, will form a network that is likely to be completed within 10 years, Wang said.
"The project, which aims to boost cooperation between China and Southeast Asian nations, will greatly enhance the economic development of China's western regions," said Wang.
A national rail plan will see the network extended to 120,000 km by the end of 2020 and to 170,000 km by the end of the 2030, Wang said. Upon completion, 60 percent of the country's railways will be located in western China.
A Ministry of Railways spokesman said a detailed construction plan to link Southeast Asian countries had not yet been finalized, but confirmed that the ministry has set up working groups with these countries.
Piamsak Milintachinda, Thailand's ambassador to China, earlier told China Daily that a ministry team went to Thailand in August to gauge the investment environment for a high-speed railway as well as a rail network connecting Thailand, China and other Southeast Asian countries.
The proposed 240-km high-speed railway in Thailand, estimated to cost about $25.6 billion, would be the first such line in that country and connect Bangkok with Rayong, the industrial base in the east of the country.
Thailand has long intended to upgrade its network and learn from China's experience in "operating a high-speed rail system", the ambassador said.
Chinese experts believe that China has the technical ability to carry out the project, but other considerations may come into play.
"There is no technological barrier to building high-speed railways to Southeast Asian countries but China needs to take profitability into account," said Ji Jialun, a professor with Beijing Jiaotong University.
Domestic companies are upgrading technology to keep up with innovation and growth in the high-speed rail industry and are well positioned to benefit from increased interest in high-speed rail routes.
China's high-speed trains have clocked speeds as high as 416.6 km/hour, according to Zhao Xiaogang, chairman of the China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp, the largest listed railway equipment maker in China.
"Europe, the United States, Russia, India, Brazil and the Middle East are all mulling over plans to develop high-speed railways, indicating a boom in the industry globally," Zhao said.
Tan Zongyang, Zhou Siyu and Liu Yiyu contributed to this story.
By Du Juan and Wan Zhihong, China Daily