Not so smooth a ride

A Chinese worker standing beside China Railway High-speed trains at a high-speed train maintenance base in Wuhan, China.
A Chinese worker standing beside China Railway High-speed trains at a high-speed train maintenance base in Wuhan, China.PHOTO: EPA

China is stamping its dominance over the overhaul of Asean's decrepit and patchy rail networks, securing rights to build high-speed rail networks in Indonesia, Thailand and Laos.

However, getting those projects off the ground has been troublesome due to disagreements over funding, China's sometimes excessive demands and bureaucratic hurdles in host countries.

Take the 150km Jakarta- Bandung high-speed rail connection that was awarded to a consortium comprising China Railway Corporation and four state-owned Indonesian companies amid much fanfare earlier this year. It has been delayed after the necessary permits to begin construction were not obtained.

The project's promoters now say that the necessary approvals are being processed and the companies will be able to meet the completion deadline of May 2019.

Troubles also hang over China's participation in a project in Thailand. The planned high-speed rail stretching from the province of Nakhon Ratchasima near the Thai-Laos border to Bangkok has been plagued by disagreements over financing issues. It will now proceed with major modifications that will reduce China's role in the venture.

Under the new plan, Thailand's military government will secure its owns financing for the project, which it wants capped at 170 million baht (S$6.5 million). It had rejected a Chinese financing package that it deemed too costly.

Leslie Lopez

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Not so smooth a ride'. Print Edition | Subscribe