Construction on a new $12 railway through Thailand will begin in September thanks to a $12 billion investment from China.
"The first two phases will start by September or October at the latest this year and will take around two-and-a-half years to complete," Thailand's Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said after meeting Chinese officials in Bangkok. In total the four stages are expected to cost around 400 billion baht ($12 billion), the Ministry of Transport said.
Thailand currently has only 155 miles of dual track railway.
The largest line on the new railway will cut 734 kilometers through Thailand, from northern Nong Khai province -- which borders Laos -- to the vast, coastal industrial estate of Map Ta Phut, southeast of Bangkok.
These improvements are part of a wider regional network that Beijing hopes will eventually link China's southwestern hub city of Kunming with Asia's second busiest port of Singapore.
China has in recent months devoted diplomatic energy, as well as huge sums of money, to wooing some Southeast Asian nations, where its reputation as a regional powerhouse is blighted by sea disputes and fears over its long-term intentions.
In November Beijing pledged $20 billion in soft loans and for infrastructure projects to the 10-members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations during a summit in Myanmar.
Experts say it is determined to outmaneuvered the U.S., which has embarked on a security "pivot" towards Asia, as well bolster its trade routes and access to resources as China's breakneck development continues.
More on the new Thailand railway on IndustryWeek.