This week's highlight projects
Thailand: Key contract signed for Sino-Thai railway
Thailand's State Railway signed a key piece of procurement contract with a Chinese consortium for the train carriages, electrical and signaling systems of the much debated first phase of the Sino-Thai high speed railway, from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.
The 253km stretch of the planned railway was previously envisioned to be much longer in distance. Originally, the China-Laos-Thailand cross-country railway system would connect Bangkok all the way with Kunming. But the Thai segment, at the beginning designed to stretch more than 800 kilometers from Bangkok to Nong Khai on the Lao border, underwent several cuts and renegotiations by multiple Thai administrations throughout the years since 2013. Besides a much shortened route, the most significant change is the shrunken role of China in the project. In 2016, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that Thailand intended to finance the project on its own, after failing to secure more favorable interest rates for Chinese loans. Thai government also did not grant Chinese companies the right to develop rail station properties. The move reduced China to a supplier of equipment and technology, which the recent contract reflects.
Guinea: Survey of trans-Guinean railway starts
A team from China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) has arrived in the West African country Guinea to kick off surveying work for the 553km railway from Mariyaba port to Simandou, a major mining area for iron. The railway is a key component of the Simandou block 1 and 2 mining project, one of the world's largest untapped iron ore deposits. A consortium of Guinean, Singaporean and Chinese companies (The SMB-Winning Group consortium) won the right to develop the mining blocks in November 2019.
By giving the mining concessions to the consortium, the Guinea government is hoping the railway could become a key piece of infrastructure that opens up inland Guinea to more development opportunities. Previous environmental and social studies of the route, done by Rio Tinto and Chinalco, estimated that more than 10,000 people would need to be uprooted for the rail project. The SMB-Winning Group consortium also has a controversial track record in Guinea for its bauxite mining activities in the Boke region.