Thursday, August 17, 2017

China eyes high speed railway as part of One Belt, One Road strategy

A superfast railway will connect Myanmar’s cities, cutting the journey time from Muse, Shan State, to Yangon to one hour. That was the claim made by China’s consul general in a recent meeting in Mandalay.

Bicyclists cross railway tracks on the outskirts of Yangon. Photo: AFPBicyclists cross railway tracks on the outskirts of Yangon. Photo: AFP

Wang Zongying was discussing China’s One Belt One Road project, which is intended to link China to the countries of Asia, and which would have particular implications for Myanmar. Work has already begun on the rail link that is to connect Ruili, in Yunnan province, to Thailand via Lashio, Mandalay, Yangon and Mawlamyine, said Mr Wang. He was speaking at Mandalay’s Pu Jin Chinese temple on November 27.

“This will be an Asian continental railroad that will connect Kunming and Ruili in Yunnan province with Thailand and Malaysia via Myanmar. Work has already begun on the rail link between Kunming and Ruili, and work is proceeding on the Lu Zen tunnel,” said Mr Wang.

“We want to connect Southeast Asia with a trans-Asia railroad that will go as far as Indonesia and Singapore, and we look forward to cooperation from the countries concerned,” he told The Myanmar Times. China was devoting great attention to questions of cost, he said.

He told the audience that the train would eventually reach a speed of 350kph, cutting the journey time from Muse to Yangon to an hour.

China-Myanmar Friendship Association chair U Poe Myint said the One Belt One Road project could bring China and Southeast Asia closer together, stimulating trade, creating jobs and developing the economy.

The project eventually envisages extending as far as Australia, Russia and Europe.

Mr Wang said the governments concerned had been gathering information and negotiating for the past three years. “The first success was the railway that connects China and Pakistan. There are also pipelines and railways that connect Russia and Central Asia that are already in operation. There is progress in the discussions with Australia and New Zealand, and an agreement with Malaysia to build a harbour, and with Thailand to dig a canal.”

Translation by Win Thaw Tar and San Layy