New govt 'won't halt airport fast rail plan'
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New govt 'won't halt airport fast rail plan'

The planned high-speed railway connecting Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao airports will become a reality even after a new government is elected, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith says.

The minister was speaking Thursday at the 15th CLSA Asean Forum in Bangkok, attended by several domestic and international investment firms.

He said the airport-linking railway has been fast-tracked by the government in a bid to boost economic activity in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

When asked by forum participants whether the project would be sidelined after upcoming elections, he said the scheme is unlikely to suffer any setbacks.

"Aside from the failed Hopewell elevated railway in the past, no government can stop megaprojects once they are approved and construction has begun," Mr Arkhom said.

"[The government] has been extremely careful regarding projects such as this."

The EEC megaproject is currently worth more than 200 billion baht, according to State Railway of Thailand (SRT) acting governor Anon Luangboriboon.

According to him, the government is set to invest upwards of 123 billion baht into the railway project, while private companies will invest around 90 billion baht.

It involves extending Bangkok's present Airport Rail Link line, which goes to Suvarnabhumi, in Samut Prakan, to connect to Don Mueang and U-tapao, in Rayong.

The entire route will be about 220km long upon completion, consisting of the Airport Link's present 29km route, and a 170km extension from Suvarnabhumi to U-tapao.

A 21km extension in Bangkok from Phaya Thai to Bang Sue via Don Mueang airport will make up the last part.

The route will use a 1.435 metre-wide, or standard gauge tracks. Reports claim it will reach a top speed of 250kph.

The SRT is currently finalising terms of reference for the project. Mr Arkhom said the government is trying to push for the terms to be complete by May, so bidding can begin that month or in June.

Investments and projects linked with development of the eastern corridor, comprising Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong, will be supervised by the EEC Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

In a similar development, Mr Arkhom said auctions for the second contract of the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway's first phase from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima will commence next month or in May.

The first phase has been split into 14 contracts, with five sub-phases making up the approximately 253km-route. According to Mr Arkhom, contracts 3-7 will be auctioned in the first half of the year, while contracts 8-14 will be auctioned by year-end.

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