A special-purpose vehicle (SPV) is needed for oversight and management of the high-speed rail project to maximise use and profits, says the Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development (SCRF).
Tourists chat in front of a billboard display of high-speed trains at Hua Lamphong railway station in Bangkok last March. APICHART JINAKUL
Chairman Virabongsa Ramangkura said the SPV should mirror how the Japan Railways (JR) Group manages that country's network of high-speed lines.
His remark indicates the network should not be run directly by the agency in charge of rail development, the State Railway of Thailand.
Mr Virabongsa said the committee needs more time to study in detail an appropriate management structure for the project.
The SCRF at its meeting last week also approved a 6-million-baht budget for the Thailand Creative & Design Center to study value creation for the high-speed train project.
The study will cover Thailand's potential and readiness to invest in high-speed trains as well as value creation along each rail route.
The SCRF also wants it to explore the possibility of overhauling the existing rail organisation as well as setting up an appropriate organisation to manage the high-speed network.
The study must be completed before bids for the project can be accepted.
Members of both the SCRF and the National Economic and Social Development Board visited Japan on Dec 11-16 last year to study how Japanese high-speed rail networks have benefited that country's economy.
Mr Virabongsa said appropriate management and design would benefit local businesses and communities.
Payungsak Chartsuthipol, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries and an SCRF member, said Japan at first established a state-owned enterprise called Japanese National Railways to manage its network of high-speed lines.
However, this type of management structure failed, leading to it being restructured and spun off into the seven JR Group companies.
East Japan Railway Co (JR East), incorporated in April 1987, is one of the seven JR Group companies and the largest passenger railway firm in the world.
It carries 16.7 million passengers on 12,000 trips per day.
Last year, JR East's revenue from rail operations amounted to 1.76 billion yen (564 million baht) or 67.4% of total revenue, with revenue from non-rail business contributing 826 million yen or 32.6%.
Thailand is now revising plans for the existing rail system and proposed high-speed rail projects in a bid to speed up investment.
Existing plans by the Transport Ministry call for spending 77.8 billion baht on 10 mass-transit projects in and around Bangkok this year excluding high-speed rail.
The figure will increase to 139 billion baht next year and 146 billion in 2015, dipping to 110 billion in 2016 and 60.4 billion in 2017.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra recently told the ministry to hasten construction of the 10 planned mass transit projects covering 464 kilometres, especially the first section of the 80.8-km electric Red Line running from Rangsit in Pathum Thani to Bangkok's Bang Sue district.
The Red Line project was delayed after suggestions that a section of it be scrapped because it would overlap the future extension of the Airport Rail Link from Phaya Thai station to Don Mueang airport as well as a planned international high-speed rail route.
Late last year, Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan said bidding for the high-speed rail project will kick off faster than previously planned, moving up from this year's third or fourth quarter to the second quarter.
The ministry is also required to settle route plans, funding sources and the environmental impact.
Mr Chatchart said the government will invest only in rail systems and civil work making up 80% of the project, with the rest coming through public-private partnerships.
About the author
- Writer: Chatrudee Theparat
Position: Business Reporter