Thai-Sino rail talks 'already concluded'
The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) insists that postponing the signing of "Contract 2.3" for the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed railway for another six months will not result in further delays, now that Thailand and China have ironed out their differences.
Acting SRT governor Worawut Mala said yesterday that extending the deadline for signing, which was originally scheduled for this month, would not alter the timeframe of the 50-billion-baht deal.
Contract negotiations have advanced slowly over the past year due to disagreements, mainly over financial issues.
"There will certainly be no delay," Mr Worawut said. "Talks with China have already reached a conclusion."
He forecast the contract would be signed during the 28th Thai-Chinese Joint Committee (JC) in either January or February next year.
The cabinet will be asked to give a final say on the contract before the meeting.
Contract 2.3 involves the cost of purchasing tracks, an electricity system, machinery, procurement of train carriages, and training.
Bangkok has decided to pay the bills through domestic loans which will cover 85% the costs. A sticking point in negotiations came when Thai officials disagreed with the lump-sum valuation of equipment and one-year warranty period proposed by Beijing.
"Now everything, including the warranty issue, is settled," Mr Worawut said.
The acting governor was speaking after Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob announced last week that he would ask Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to extend the signing deadline to May next year, as more time was needed.
Construction work on some sections of the 253-kilometre rail route has already begun. The 230-billion-baht project is part of a larger rail network which will link Thailand, Laos and China.
The SRT is currently working on the second phase of the scheme, a 350-km track from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai, adjacent to the Lao capital of Vientiane.
A company will be hired for 751 million baht to design the route, which will take around 12 months, Mr Worawut said.