Southern Land Bridge study sped up
Transport ministry to improve public understanding
The Transport Ministry is speeding up the environmental and health impact assessment for the 26-billion-baht Southern Land Bridge which will link the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
The ministry was assigned at a meeting on the land bridge project to lead the work of improving public understanding of the project so that all necessary information is given to all concerned parties and they all find the project "acceptable", deputy permanent secretary for transport Peraphon Thawornsupacharoen said after the meeting on Friday.
Before the National Environmental Board (NEB) assigned the ministry to scale up the public campaign about the land bridge, the Transport and Traffic Policy Plan Office, the Marine Department and the State Railway of Thailand had already responded to those opposing the project by providing them with sufficient information.
Aimed at facilitating the transport of cargo containers from Pak Bara deep sea port in Satun, on the Andaman shore, to Songkhla deep sea port, on the Gulf of Thailand shore, the project will connect Hat Yai train station in Songkhla to Pak Bara deep sea port in its first phase of implementation.
The 142-kilometre bridge will stretch across four districts in Satun and another four districts in Songkhla. It will consist of a 4.5-km elevated road across the sea, a 29-km long elevated road on the land and a rail route stretching 108.5km on the land.
The project is estimated to yield an economic internal rate of return of 17.53%, or about 530 billion baht in 30 years.
The second phase will expand the transport route further to Songkhla's second deep sea port in Chana district, said Mr Peraphon, adding that a dual-track rail system will later be constructed to link up the two shores.
Following concerns raised recently over the environmental impact assessment of the project, officials decided to add an environmental and health impact assessment (EHIA) to measure how the project may impact public health, he said.
Officials are preparing an EHIA report, while a report of the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) has already been prepared and is expected to be submitted to the cabinet for approval in June after the ministry approves it later this month, said Mr Peraphon.
Before the report was written, the SEA results had gone through a sufficient number of forums organised to gather the opinions of concerned parties, he said.
"All sides have followed the NEB's resolution, but concerns were still raised at Friday's meeting over the need to provide additional explanations to the public," said Mr Peraphon.
It was agreed at the meeting that a copy of the already given explanation and all other information about the project will be published on the official websites of the provinces concerned, while a formal letter responding to questions raised previously by 18 individuals protesting against the project will be sent to each of them to assert that complete information about the project is made public, he said.
It was also agreed that the land bridge will not have to wait for results of the studies on the construction of Pak Bara deep sea port and Songkhla's second deep sea port are complete, he said.
- pak bara