Somkid urges SRT to speed up rail studies

Somkid urges SRT to speed up rail studies

Hua Hin, Rayong sections top priority

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has instructed the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to speed up the study of the investment plans for the high-speed Rayong and Bangkok-Hua Hin train project sections.

Mr Somkid passed on the instruction after he chaired a meeting to follow up on the Transport Ministry's key infrastructure projects yesterday. He said the SRT was urged to quickly conduct a feasibility study on joint investment by private firms in the projects, adding he expects to know the outcome of the studies soon.

"The important projects like the high-speed train for the Bangkok-Hua Hin and Bangkok-Rayong sections must proceed quickly," Mr Somkid said.

He said the Bangkok-Rayong section would be part of the government's Eastern Economic Corridor development plan. The Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) must produce a complete plan for the project, including links to Laem Chabang Port.

The OTP must also come up with a plan to develop areas along the tracks for commercial purposes. A committee in charge of the national transport system will convene early next month to discuss an overview of the country's logistics plan, he said.

According to the deputy premier, Japan, China and South Korea have voiced interest in joining the Bangkok-Rayong train project. The route plan must be drawn quickly seeing as the eastern zone would be a key transport gateway to serve growth of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), he said.

He said Map Ta Phut port in Rayong will become an important gateway for shipping among Asean countries.

The government has prepared a budget of 2.5 trillion baht for the infrastructure investments which will run until 2022, as well as a separate chunk of money for energy investment projects worth 2.5 trillion baht, he said.

The deputy premier said the Transport Ministry's spending on the infrastructure schemes was within its target, while the disbursement of the funds were proceeding according to plan.

Some infrastructure projects can also be brought into the public private partnership (PPP) fast-track initiative, which should cut any red tape and shorten the projects' launch from two years to nine months.

"Projects are moving at a slow pace because there are many steps before they are launched and they are held back by regulations, which is why we are pushing PPP fast track," said Mr Somkid.

"I think the infrastructure projects are going to get off the ground. Civil servants are now confident the government is paying serious attention to the matter, while private companies are prepared to join," said Mr Somkid.

The government also has other funding options: the Thailand Future Fund and Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to sponsor the projects, he said.

He added that the Finance Ministry expects to conclude how the funds will be formed by next month.

The deputy premier said all the Transport Ministry's departments have promised to ramp up efforts to complete the projects in line with their plans.

The construction of the Pattaya-Map Ta Phut motorway is now under way, while the bidding for construction contracts for the three electric train projects -- the Pink Line from Khae Rai to Min Buri worth 56.6 billion baht, the Yellow Line from Lat Phrao to Samrong worth 54.6 billlion baht, and the Orange Line connecting Thailand Cultural Centre with Min Buri, worth 101 billion baht -- will take place this month.

In a separate announcement, Mr Somkid said the government is considering additional measures to attract investment to the three southernmost provinces.

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