Rail unions want 3-airport link panel set up

Rail unions want 3-airport link panel set up

'Friends of East' demand halt to EEC city scheme

Rail unions have called for a House committee to be formed to study the terms and conditions of the high-speed railway project linking Suvarnabhumi and two other  major airports. (Bangkok Post photo)
Rail unions have called for a House committee to be formed to study the terms and conditions of the high-speed railway project linking Suvarnabhumi and two other major airports. (Bangkok Post photo)

Rail unions have called for a House committee to be formed to study the terms and conditions of the high-speed railway project linking three major airports, a contract awarded to a Charoen Pokphand Group (CP)-led consortium.

The network of unions comprising those attached to the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), the electric trains and rail workers met with Chinnaworn Bunyakiat and submitted a letter calling for the establishment of the standing committee on Wednesday.

The contract governing construction of the high-speed railway line linking Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao airports in Samut Prakan, Bangkok and Rayong respectively, requires close scrutiny for the sake of the public interest, the unions said. 

The union network is led by Akkarakrit Noonchan, director of research and development at the Governance Institute of Thailand. 

Mr Akkarakrit said parliament should look into the contract now the consortium has won the bid to build and operate the project. 

According to him, the consortium has negotiated with the SRT in charge of the rail link about conditions to be considered outside of the terms of reference (ToR). The conditions pertain to extending the operating concession from 50 to 99 years as well as requesting the government to secure a loan for the project. 

Also, the consortium has tried to talk the government into providing a financial subsidy in the event of a shortfall in revenue from operating the line, Mr Akkarakrit said. 

The CP-led consortium was the winner of the bid to build the 224-billion-baht high-speed railway linking the three airports as part of plans to develop the government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) high-tech investment hub scheme.

The 220-km-long railway network is scheduled to open in 2024. Its trains are expected to be able to reach up to 250 kilometres per hour.

Early this month, the SRT announced it was ready to hand over 80% of more than 10,000 rai of land to the consortium to begin work on the rail project.

Meanwhile, Mr Chinnaworn said the unions network also wanted a separate House panel to be set up to examine details about the implementation of the EEC and its impacts in terms of the associated city plan and investments in infrastructure.

On Tuesday, about 50 members of the so-called Friends of the East Network lodged a petition, addressed to the prime minister, demanding the suspension of the EEC city plan, which they say would be destructive to people's livelihoods and the environment.

The group also said the plan sorely lacked public input, a claim countered by the EEC Policy Committee, which insisted more than 40 public hearings were held to gauge people's opinions.

The EEC Policy Committee said 78% of the city plan area will be kept for agricultural purposes.

A full draft of the new town plan for the government's flagship is scheduled to go before the EEC Policy Committee for approval early next month.

On Wednesday, Mr Chinnaworn said he would bring the rail unions' petition to the attention of the government chief whip and raise the issue for debate in parliament, which will decide whether the House committees will be established.


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