CP set to ink airport link deal
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CP set to ink airport link deal

New SRT board wins approval from cabinet

Charoen Pokphand chief executive Suphachai Chearavanont
Charoen Pokphand chief executive Suphachai Chearavanont

Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group has confirmed its consortium will sign a contract to develop the 224-billion-baht high-speed train project linking Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao airports on Oct 25 as scheduled.

The contract signing date was earlier set for on Tuesday, but it was deferred to Oct 25 after all members of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) board stepped down on Oct 1.

The cabinet on Tuesday approved the new SRT board members, clearing the way for the planned signing of a public-private partnership agreement. The new board is headed by Chirute Visalachitra, director-general of the Department of Land Transport (DLT).

"We expect to sign the contract for the high-speed railway project on Oct 25 as things are expected to be settled by that time," said CP chief executive Suphachai Chearavanont.

The CP-led consortium, which comprises CP, Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc, China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, Ch Karnchang Plc, and Italian-Thai Development Plc, submitted the lowest bid of 117.2 billion baht and won the contract to build the rail project in December last year.

However, the group raised concerns over land appropriation and eviction problems as negotiations proceeded. The Transport Ministry maintained that the SRT was ready to hand over 70% of 10,000 rai of land designated under the project to the consortium can begin work following the contract signing.

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Tuesday he had held talks with Mr Suphachai and assured him of the government's full cooperation to ensure the project's implementation would proceed as planned.

He said he had also instructed Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob to provide support and cooperation to the bid winner as much as is permitted under the law, assuring that the SRT can deliver 70% of the land to the consortium.

Mr Anutin pointed out that it is normal for a state agency not to be able to hand over land to the contractor of a large infrastructure project all at once and, in cases of delays stemming from the land hand-overs, the project completion date is usually extended.

The deputy prime minister shrugged off reports that the rival consortium, BSR JV, was waiting to step in, saying he had nothing to do with joint venture, which is made up of Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc (BTS), Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction Plc, and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Plc.

Mr Anutin, who is a former president of Sino-Thai Construction Plc, claimed to have no vested interests in the three-airport link project.

The deputy prime minister said he had no idea why the SRT board members resigned en masse, thereby delaying the signing of the contract.

He insisted that no one had pressured the board to quit.

Mr Anutin also said he would not nominate any of the former SRT board members who came from the private sector to serve on any state enterprise boards.

"This isn't blacklisting. I don't have the power to do so. But I consider them unable to work with us," he said.

The railway development scheme is part of a plan to develop the government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) high-tech investment hub.

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