Railways that are planned or under construction in Southeast Asia (2023).
This is the second edition of the Southeast Asia Railways Report. This article lists projects under construction or that have been in the news over the last year. This list is for national railways, and there will be another post for urban transit railways.
There have been numerous announcements over the last year of new and improved railways in Cambodia. While such announcements are often wishful thinking said out aloud, there has been serious interest shown by China.
The new Prime minister of Cambodia met with the Chairman of the Board of China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) and talked about a railway system covering the whole country.
Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville
These reports refer to it as a high-speed railway, but then go to say it is 160km/h, which is semi-high-speed. The articles also mention it being a conversion project, as if they would just upgrade the current track. This would be a completely new electric railway on a standard gauge.
Phnom Penh – Poipet
A feasibility study for the rebuild of the line from Phnom Penh to Poipet on the Thai border was submitted to the government on January 24.
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap
A Phnom Penh – Siem Reap railway has been included in the news stories mentioning new railways, though the priority is on upgrading the Poipet – Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville corridor.
Phnom Penh – Bavet
A feasibility study is planned for a railway to the Vietnam border, which would form part of the Phnom Penh – HCMC Railway. Vietnam not have not made any recent plans to study this, so don’t expect this to happen anytime soon.
Phnom Penh-Preah Vihear province
A railway from Cambodia to Southern Laos appears on older development maps, and the idea was floated again this year with a “high-speed rail” between Cambodia and Laos:
“Prime Minister Hun Sen added that the two countries also agreed to connect Champasak province with Preah Vihear province and with Ratanakkiri province in between.”
Java High-speed Railway
Focus has now shifted to extending the railway to Surabaya.
Manggarai Station (Jakarta)
Manggarai Station will be the future long-distance railway hub for Jakarta. The station redevelopment has been delayed as the station still operates as a busy commuter railway hub. The station revitalization project is expected to be completed in the 2024-2025 period.
While Java is looking to build a high-speed Tans-Java railway, there have been few updates on the Trans-Sumatra Railway.
The Lampung provincial government asked for central assistance in building a Trans-Sumatra Railway.
Vientiane South Station
The Khamsavath Railway Station was officially opened with a ceremony attended by the Prime Ministers of Laos and Thailand. This station will receive trains on the metre gauge from Thailand, but there has been no mention of when this service will begin.
At the moment there is a shuttle train from Nong Khai (Thailand) to Thanaleng (Laos), and passengers then transfer to public transport or taxis. A train to Khamsavath would make Bangkok to Vientiane train travel a reality.
Vientiane – Vung Ang Railway
Malaysia is continuing down the path of expanding and improving their railways.
East Coast Rail Link
The ECRL has passed the halfway mark, with 50.29% of construction being completed. The most recent completion estimate says that the section “from Kota Baru, Kelantan to Gombak is set to be completed on Dec 31, 2026, while Gombak to Port Klang stretch is expected to be completed by Dec 31, 2027.”
Gemas-Johor Bahru Electrified Double Tracking
The upgrade of the old KL-JB line to an electrified double track continues, with the Gemas to Johor Bahru section expected to by completed by 2025. Once this is complete, trains will be able to run directly from KL to JB. Getting the train from KL to Singapore currently involves getting the electric railway to Gemas, and then switching to the diesel-powered trains on the single track from Gemas to JB. This will mean faster and more frequent services Between KL and JB, but it doesn’t include Singapore. That brings us to the next railway…
Kuala Lumpur – Singapore High-speed Railway
After being cancelled in 2021, the KL-Singapore HSR has been revived. Submission of the request for information (RFI) concept proposals is open until Jan 2024.
Kuala Lumpur – Ipoh High-speed Railway
A proposal for a KL-Ipoh high-speed railway was announced this year, which would reduce the travel time to 40 minutes. This could form part of an eventual KL to Bangkok high-speed railway.
Sabah and Sarawak are always overlooked when it comes to railway proposals, but 2023 has seen some serious proposals for a Trans-Borneo Railway. This would be a railway to connect Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, and it would include Brunei. There are also calls for the railway to be extended to the new capital of Indonesia in East Kalimantan, making it a true Trans-Borneo Railway by connecting the three nations on the island.
The grand railway plans of the Philippines have been derailed by tensions in the West Philippine Sea. Funding from China for the major railway projects has been put on hold.
PNR South Long Haul
Funding for the PNR South Long Haul has been thrown into doubt, though a recent report said they will wait until December in relation to the loan from China.
The Mindanao Railway Project hasn’t made any progress, and is now seeking support from JICA.
The Philippines has formally withdrawn from loan negotiations with China for the Subic-Clark railway project.
The Panay Railway has been in the news but it appears to be going nowhere.
Thailand has the most new projects underway, which is fitting for the country that is the geographic hub of Mainland Southeast Asia. To cement Thailand’s rail hub status, Bang Sue Grand Station was officially opened in January 2023, with the official name of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
While the railway network is expanding, it’s being built on different gauges, and the SRT is battling a 230-billion-baht debt.
Bangkok – Nong Khai High-Speed Railway
Bangkok – Nong Khai double-tracking
The double-tracking of the metre-gauge railway to Nong Khai continues, with Khon Kaen to Nong Khai being the next section to be upgraded.
This double-tracking is being built in the same corridor as the high-speed railway, which I expand on in the mixed-gauge mess of Thailand’s railways.
Ban Phai – Mukdahan – Nakhon Phanom Railway
Branching off the metre-gauge railway of the Northeast line is the Ban Phai – Mukdahan – Nakhon Phanom Railway. This railway has been getting the least amount of attention in the English-language newspapers, but there are regular updates on Thai infrastructure groups which I have linked to here.
Chiang Rai Railway
3 Airports High-Speed Railway
Southern Line double-tracking
The double-tracking of the single-track metre-gauge Southern Line continues, and the Bangkok to Hua Hin section will open in December. This will reduce the travel time from 4-5 hours down to 3 hours.
Chumphon – Ranong Railway
There has been a lot of proposals over the last year, but not a single kilometre of new railway has been built in Vietnam.
North-South Express Railway
Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong Railway
US$17 billion needed to build railway connecting to seaports
“…the detailed planning of the 380km-long Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong project has been basically completed at a cost of about 11 billion USD.’
News archive: Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong Railway
Hanoi – Ha Long Railway
Hanoi-Quang Ninh railway project under reconsideration
“The Ministry of Transport is going to reconsider the Yen Vien – Pha Lai – Ha Long – Cai Lan railway project in 2024 after it has been suspended for nearly 20 years due to investment problems.”
News archive: Hanoi – Ha Long Railway
Ha Long – Mong Cai Railway
Ha Long-Mong Cai railway proposed
“The northern province of Quang Ninh has just proposed to the Ministry of Transport to add a railway project connecting Ha Long and Mong Cai cities into the list of projects to be carried out by the Vietnam Railway Authority.”
News archive: Ha Long – Mong Cai Railway
Da Lat–Thap Cham Railway
Bien Hoa – Vung Tau Railway
A pre-feasibility study report was being prepared for the Bien Hoa – Vung Tau Railway.
HCMC – Can Tho Railway
News archive: Mekong Delta railway.