Chadchat wary of graft in rail projects

Strict measures will be put in place to prevent corruption in the building of new high-speed railway stations, Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt says.

The House committee on transport questioned Mr Chadchat yesterday after the cabinet approved transport projects worth a combined 2 trillion baht on Wednesday.

Most of that money will be spent building high-speed rail links across the country.

Mr Chadchat told the panel he would ensure the locations of high-speed railway stations, which are likely to drive up commercial property values in the areas around them, would not serve the interests of provincial politicians.

The locations will be decided in compliance with strict technical standards to prevent graft, he said.

High-speed railway stations will be placed 100km apart, the minister said.

The high-speed lines will also run parallel with existing conventional rail tracks. Conventional trains will be used to shuttle passengers to high-speed stations.

The Rural Roads Department will also build road links to the new high-speed stations.

Mr Chadchat told the House committee that he would prevent corruption by controlling median construction prices and construction quality.

The government plans to build four high-speed railway lines, from Bangkok to the North, Northeast, East and South.

The northern route will reach Chiang Mai province.

Mr Chadchat wants the northern route to connect to southern China through Laos, but he said the Lao government had rejected the idea. Instead, Laos wants the link to pass from Nong Khai to Vientiane and then to southern China, meaning more high-speed track lines would be built inside Laos.

Mr Chadchat also assured the House committee that Thailand would have enough power reserves to supply high-speed rail operations, estimating that the trains would consume about 1% of national electricity generating capacity.

The minister said he would discuss power supply for the high-speed trains with Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal.