CP declares intent to build high-speed rail
Bangkok-Rayong link catches firm's interest
Shanghai: Agro-industrial conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) has reiterated its intent to jointly develop the 194-kilometre Bangkok-Rayong high-speed rail route worth 153 billion baht.
Chairman and chief executive Dhanin Chearavanont said the company is ready to join the route development as requested by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
"There are just a handful of companies that want to invest in such a huge project that has high investment costs and a longer-term return on investment," he said. "Gen Prayut recently told us CP should step up to help the government invest in the project."
However, the group wants to consider the project details first, said Mr Dhanin.
On May 30, Masahiro Okafuji, Itochu Corporation's president and chief executive, informed Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak in Tokyo that the company would team up with potential Thai partners including CP Group, Amata Group and Saha Group to jointly build a high-speed rail network linking Bangkok and Rayong.
The 1.435-metre-gauge high-speed rail linking the cities is part of the government's Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development plan that won cabinet approval on Tuesday.
The corridor through Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao has been designated for development as a high-tech industry cluster, with an eye towards becoming Asean's leading economic zone for industrial, infrastructure and urban development.
The project is meant to accommodate the 10 targeted industries being promoted as clusters by the government.
Approved by the cabinet last November, the 10 industries are next-generation cars; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemicals; digital; and medical services.
The EEC will also rely on developments in transport infrastructure, including air, land, rail and water links, to cut logistics costs.
The Bangkok-Rayong route is one of two high-speed rail projects the government is including in its fast-track public-private partnership (PPP) scheme. The other is the 211km Bangkok-Hua Hin route worth 94.7 billion.
If approved by the PPP committee, the two high-speed projects will be the sixth and seventh such projects.
Last November the government put five projects worth a combined 334 billion baht on the front burner under the PPP scheme, giving them a mandate to start in the second half this year.
They comprise three mass transit routes in Bangkok: the Pink Line from Khae Rai to Min Buri, the Yellow Line from Lat Phrao to Samrong, and the Blue Line extension from Hua Lamphong to Bang Khae and Bang Sue to Tha Phra. Those routes were worth a combined 194 billion baht, while two interprovincial motorways were worth 140 billion.
The two motorways will link Ayutthaya's Bang Pa-in district with Nakhon Ratchasima and Nonthaburi's Bang Yai district with Kanchanaburi.
Mr Dhanin said he fully supports the government's EEC development plan as he believes it will play a significant role in enhancing Thailand's competitiveness and future potential growth.
U-tapao airport in Rayong should be upgraded to decentralise development to the Eastern Seaboard, while a high-speed rail network is needed to facilitate travel and support business activities, he said.
If the EEC is implemented as planned, it will become a new destination for foreign investments, generating income for Thais and creating jobs for the younger generation, said Mr Dhanin.