SRT freezes land leases near tracks

Structures to be cleared to build high speed rails

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will stop leasing areas along tracks across the country as they will need to be preserved for the construction of high-speed and double track railways.

Chadchat: Tracks to be free of buildings

Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt has ordered the SRT not to sign any future leases and to consider scrapping land use contracts with existing lease holders in some cases.

He wants areas along some rail tracks to be free of buildings that could obstruct the construction of double track and high speed railways.

Knocking down the buildings and negotiating lease cancellations with private users could take time and delay the two projects, Mr Chadchat said.

This is why he wants the SRT to stop granting new leases and start looking into cancelling current contracts as soon as possible.

The government has proposed a multi-billion baht plan to improve the nation's infrastructure to boost travel and cut logistic costs.

The government hopes to open bidding in September for contracts to build the country's first high-speed rail link _ the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route which will cover a 680km distance in three hours.

The idea to clear the areas around the tracks for the two construction projects occurred to Mr Chadchat while he was travelling to join the cabinet meeting in Uttaradit early last week.

"Approaching the Uttaradit railway station, I spotted buildings located very close to the rail tracks," he said. "SRT authorities said the building owners have signed a 15-year contract with the SRT which will end in 2025."

The minister said he also found several buildings located close to the Airport Link railway in the Ramkhamhaeng area of Bangkok.

These buildings may pose a hindrance to the construction of the high-speed and double track railway projects, he said.

By law, all buildings are required to be at least 15m away from rail tracks.

Mr Chadchat was referring to the Community Mall, which is located closer to the tracks than the 15m distance requirement, an SRT source said.

The SRT has terminated its lease with the mall's owners, who then asked the court to issue an injunction against further legal action because the building was built before the construction of the Airport Rail Link, the SRT source said.

Both sides are negotiating to find a solution.

Negotiations with other lease holders may need to be carried out on a case-by-case basis if their structures pose any problems for the construction of the high-speed and double track railways, the source said.

The SRT is considering increasing the minimum distance requirement from 15m to 40m.

Meanwhile, Mr Chadchat is planning to upgrade the ailing Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Lat Krabang district to better serve business operators. The depot has been operating for 17 years without any major renovation.

The SRT, which owns the land where the ICD is situated, earns about 500 million baht a year from leasing the area to six container operators. However, the SRT has not used the money to improve the facilities, Mr Chadchat said after meeting the six operators.

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Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook
Position: Reporter