The first contract encompasses the detailed design of the 250km first phase of the project between Bangkok and the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima and is worth Baht 1.7bn. The second is worth Baht 3.5bn and covers the employment of Chinese advisors.

The contract signings took place at the Brics summit held this week in Xiamen, China, and were witnessed by Chinese president, Mr Xi Jinping, and Thai prime minister, Mr Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Mr Anon Luengboriboon, acting governor of State Railway of Thailand, says construction is expected to begin on the first phase of the project in October and will be completed in 2021.

“The Department of Highways will build the first 3.5km of the line while the rest will be open for public bidding for Thai contractors,” Anon says.

The complete 873km line will link Bangkok with Laos crossing the Mekong River at the northeastern Thai city of Nong Khai.