Bangkok-Nong Khai railway link details firm

Bangkok-Nong Khai railway link details firm

Details about setting up the agency to manage the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway from Bangkok to Nong Khai are close to completion, says Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn.

Financial advisers are scheduled to report back to the ministry on what type of business structure the agency should adopt by next month.

Speaking after a recent meeting at the Transport Ministry, he urged the advisory firms to draw up pitches for the type of structure they would deem most suitable for the task. Eight companies listed under the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), most of which are commercial banks, will carry out the research.

Among the ideas floated in past discussions with the ministry include the company possibly being a state enterprise or a company listed under the SET.

Initial ministry reports said the proposed company will oversee all processes related to the megaproject, which has been under construction since December.

"The agency must be established within the year, since construction for the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway has already begun," Mr Pailin said. "This signifies that steps to set the agency up are already behind schedule."

The deputy minister added that commercial banks were commissioned to carry out research for the agency's business structure because such companies are already well-grounded in the financial field and should be capable of coming up with the best option.

"It will be favourable for the railway project if companies on the SET are involved in investment [as well], since megaprojects like these require a colossal amount of funding," Mr Pailin said.

"Although private companies will be allowed to invest in the project, the assets still ultimately belong to the government."

The cabinet earlier instructed the ministry to ensure the agency would be managed separately from the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). Mr Pailin, however, said the SRT would not be entirely left out of the plans.

Meanwhile, State Railway Workers' Union representatives went to the ministry to voice opposition against a draft railway transport bill approved by the cabinet in December 2016.

Part of the draft states separate agencies be established for specific tasks, to improve the quality of rail transport. The SRT, a state enterprise under the Transport Ministry, is the main railway operator in Thailand.

According to a cabinet announcement, the bill calls for an asset-managing agency by 2020, a railway-operating agency by 2024 and a maintenance agency by the same date. Although specific details have not been concluded, the cabinet announcement said the SRT will hold a 100% stake in these agencies.

Union president Sawit Kaewvarn said the Transport Ministry should ensure no revenue which is "rightfully the SRT's" should be given to other bodies as a result of the changes.

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