Airport rail link timeline announced
Winning bidder to be unveiled in January
The contract for the high-speed railway set to link Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao airports will officially be announced and signed by the winning bidder by next January, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has announced.
The railway operator's acting governor Voravuth Mala made the comments Monday during a second pre-tender meeting, comprising representatives from all 31 previously announced firms that purchased bidding documents.
The documents, which were up for grabs in June and July, cost each firm one million baht to obtain.
The SRT's timeline for the 224-billion-baht, high-speed airport link states that tender documents should be submitted by the firms on Nov 12.
"By that evening [Nov 12], we will have the official list of bidders for the project," Mr Voravuth said, adding that the authority will also find out which firms have decided to group together to make bids.
Current plans and contract bidding papers call for a 220-kilometre, 250kph railway linking the three main Bangkok-area airports.
According to SRT reports, the firms may group together however they please, since the project's stipulations do not include any grouping restrictions.
"So far, we have received over 600 questions from the firms, half of which we have already answered," Mr Voravuth said. "Most of the questions involved some confusion regarding the tender instructions, land acquisition and commercial developments around the route."
Upon its completion, the airport-linking railway will be approximately 220km-long, with its trains reaching up to 250kph, according to initial SRT reports.
It is set to link Don Mueang airport to U-tapao airport in Rayong, through a route that will also see it stop at Suvarnabhumi in Samut Prakan, completing the three-airport connection.
The network will use the current Phaya Thai-Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link's (ARL) and extensions will be built to Don Mueang and U-tapao.
The mega-project was fast-tracked as part of the government's plans to develop the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which comprises Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong.
However, Mr Voravuth said the project must first pass an environmental impact assessment (EIA) from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning before any contract-winner can ink an agreement with the SRT.
According to him, the EIA should be approved early next January, in time for the winning bidder to sign the project's contract by the end of that month.
The acting chief said the railway network must take no more than five years to complete after the contracts are signed, adding he expects the network to be open by the end of 2023.
In a related development, Mr Voravuth said the SRT has been preparing for the gradual decommissioning of the company it had set up to manage the existing ARL to make way for the new high-speed rail link.
As per the contract, the winning bidder will also manage the ARL in addition to the actual high-speed railway.
Some staff from the firm, called the SRT Electrified Train Co Ltd, will be transferred to a new company set to operate the SRT's upcoming Red Line commuter rail network, set to open in January 2021.
"There are about 400 operational staff members at the ARL, while we will need at least 900 for the Red Line," Mr Voravuth said.
"After the firm's decommission, there is no telling who will be transferred to the new company and who will choose to leave altogether.
"Some may even join the new company set to manage the new airport-linking high-speed railway," he added.