EEC high-speed railway to steer clear of Rayong on safety fears

EEC high-speed railway to steer clear of Rayong on safety fears

Steering clear of Map Ta Phut, Rayong

The government has altered the high-speed railway linking three airports, one of the key infrastructure projects of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), to terminate at U-tapao airport instead of the inner city of Rayong out of safety concerns and to speed development.

According to Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, the government is concerned about passenger safety in the event of an accident at Map Ta Phut industrial estate, through which the railway was envisioned to run before ending at Rayong.

Map Ta Phut lies east of U-tapao and west of Rayong on the Eastern Seaboard.

"The government through the EEC Committee agreed to change the last station of the route to U-tapao airport instead of Rayong," Mr Kanit told the Bangkok Post. "If the rail is to pass through the Map Ta Phut industrial estate as originally planned, delay of the project is likely because of the requirement to conduct an environmental impact assessment again."

The Bangkok-Rayong high-speed project was designed to run in the first phase through four sections: Bang Sue-Don Mueang, Bang Sue-Phaya Thai, Phaya Thai-Suvarnabhumi airport link and Suvarnabhumi-U-tapao airport.

The project was earlier to have the terms of reference issued next month, with bidding likely over the next 3-4 months.

According to Mr Kanit, the high-speed railway is one of the vital developments to build investor confidence. Others include the U-tapao airport expansion and the EEC law.

The EEC committee earlier this month approved 168 infrastructure development projects worth 989 billion baht for the EEC flagship scheme. The infrastructure development plan will come in three phases: urgent, intermediate and long term.

The urgent phase, during 2017-18, is intended to lure both domestic and foreign investment to the EEC; the intermediate phase, during 2019-21, focuses on transport development; and the third phase, from 2022 onwards, aims to create sustainable development and bolster the infrastructure network to link neighbouring countries.

Of total EEC infrastructure investment, state spending will account for 30%, public-private partnerships 59%, state-owned enterprises 10% and the Royal Thai Army 1%.

Terms of reference for development projects are scheduled to be issued in the first half, with investment in each likely to be made available this year.

The draft EEC law was approved by the National Legislative Assembly last week and is expected to be formally implemented this month or next after winning royal endorsement.

The EEC law, once enforced, is aimed at building investor confidence.

In related news, the latest EEC Committee meeting also approved a 200-million-baht budget for the State Railway of Thailand to conduct a feasibility study of the second phase of the Bangkok-Rayong high-speed rail to link Chanthaburi and Trat.

The extension will also potentially link to China via Cambodia and Vietnam.

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