High-speed rail link pushed back to 2024

High-speed rail link pushed back to 2024

Project contractor to be named next year

Construction bids are still pending, but the planned three-airport rail link has been officially delayed until 2024. (File photos)
Construction bids are still pending, but the planned three-airport rail link has been officially delayed until 2024. (File photos)

The high-speed railway set to link Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports will open in mid-2024 at the earliest, State Railway of Thailand (SRT) acting governor Voravuth Mala said Monday.

The government had earlier expected the 200-billion-baht megaproject to be open by 2023.

The interim rail chief made the comments after a scheduled first meeting among government authorities and representatives from all 31 firms who bought bidding documents for the project this and last month.

The documents cost one million baht per firm to obtain. Each firm interested in operation and management rights had purchased the documents, Mr Voravuth said.

However, contractors, which will only construct the network, were not required to purchase them, he added.

He said the winning bidder for the project will be announced early next year, while a land expropriation decree for construction will come into effect within three or four months.

Mr Voravuth said actual expropriation will be complete by the end of next year, with construction taking five years.

Initial SRT reports state this land includes 150 rai in the Makkasan area, 25 rai in Si Racha, Chon Buri and 300 rai in Chachoengsao among others. It will reportedly cost around three billion baht to expropriate the land in these three areas.

"The project contract is 50 years in total, split into five years of construction and 45 years of operation," Mr Voravuth said. "But it is up to the contract winner. If they take less than five years to construct the network, they can operate it for a longer time.

"They will also be responsible for specifying how many trains to buy, while keeping in mind there must be no complaints from passengers regarding slow service or lack of trains," he added.

Upon its completion, the 220km airport-linking high-speed railway will mostly use the existing Airport Rail Link's railway, from Phaya Thai to Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan.

The project mainly involves constructing extensions from Phaya Thai to Don Mueang airport and Suvarnabhumi to U-Tapao airport in Rayong.

The winning bidder must also manage the Airport Link in addition to the high-speed railway, with both networks set to share rails.

Mr Voravuth said some staff from the debt-ridden company will be transferred to a new SRT-affiliated firm set to manage the SRT Red commuter rail line in Bangkok and its metropolitan area.

Among the 31 firms who bought bidding documents, there were Chinese, Japanese and Korean firms, in addition to Thai ones. As per the project's public-private-partnership investment plan, foreign firms can hold more than 50% of the stake, but each concerned firm has to be at least 25% Thai-owned.

A site visit for interested companies is set to commence Tuesday, while a second bidders' meeting will be conducted on Sept 24.

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