The Kra Canal project might not be economically feasible, but a Malaysian company operating from Penang port has proposed an alternative: A railway linking the deep sea port of Penang to Thailand’s Songkla Port in the east which would perform the same role as a Kra Canal at a fraction of the cost.

In remarks to Malaysian media today, Thai ambassador to Malaysia Damrong Kraikruan said of the alternative proposal: ““There is a deep sea port in Penang currently, and we plan to eventually have a deep sea port in Songkhla. So when shipments come from India into Penang port, we can unload cargo and put it on a train to Songkhla.

“Total time taken including loading and unloading would be around nine or ten hours compared to five days if ships pass through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. This is a new proposal by a large Malaysian company which currently owns Penang Port.”

He revealed that the company that proposed this is allegedly one MMC Corporation Bhd (MMC). Its port operating arm, MMC Ports had recently bought over full control of Penang Port for RM220 million in May,

“The proposal came from your side (Malaysia). There is no value to it yet, but for further details you need to ask (MMC controlling shareholder Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar) Al-Bukhary — he was the one who proposed it.

“It is about 80km from Songkhla to Bukit Kayu Hitam and another 200km from Bukit Kayu Hitam, so the proposed line would be around 300km long. Thai and Malaysian governments will be having discussions on this in the next few weeks,” Damrong said.

Damrong added that the Thai government was not the main proponent behind the Kra Canal. He said the private sector and “someone from China” had been the Kra Canal project’s main proponents.

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