Thai-Chinese rail project falls in price

Thai-Chinese rail project falls in price

Flashback: Last Dec 21, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (sixth from left) and government officials turned the first spade to begin construction of the 3.5km high-speed test link between Klang Dong and Pang Asok villages in a remote Nakhon Ratchasima near the Chokchai Ranch - dubbed the 'train to nowhere'. (File photo by Wicha Charoenkiatpakul)
Flashback: Last Dec 21, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (sixth from left) and government officials turned the first spade to begin construction of the 3.5km high-speed test link between Klang Dong and Pang Asok villages in a remote Nakhon Ratchasima near the Chokchai Ranch - dubbed the 'train to nowhere'. (File photo by Wicha Charoenkiatpakul)

Nakhon Ratchasima: A 3.5-kilometre pilot stretch of the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway in this northeastern province will be 9% cheaper than its initial valuation of 398 million baht, said Thanin Somboon, chief of the Department of Highways (DOH).

The cost of the embankments for the rail route from Klang Dong to Pang Asok in Pak Chong district, Nakhon Ratchasima, was previously put at 425 million baht, including value-added tax, by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT).

While the SRT will be in charge of the line's construction, Mr Thanin said the cost has since fallen to 371 million baht. The price drop reflects negotiations with China which have led Thailand to use more locally produced materials to build the embankments.

The Transport Ministry commissioned the DOH to build the embankments without having to enter bidding.

"There was an initial disagreement between us and China, that we could not use our cement and metals because it did not fit their standards," Mr Thanin said.

"After discussions and changes to our products' composition, we are now able to source the proper cement and produce our own metals under specifications given by China."

According to him, the 3.5km stretch will be constructed from 99% locally made materials. However, Thailand will still have to source geomembranes -- sheets of material used to control the embankments' exposure to the elements such as water, from China.

"They cost more or less the same, at an average of 108 baht per square metre, regardless of whether they were made in Thailand or China," Mr Thanin said. "It would be more worthwhile to source the material from them."

Mr Thanin said construction for the stretch is now around 7% complete. The first major task has been digging the embankments, he added.

He said the DOH is waiting for funding from the SRT so it can keep building on the stretch's drainage systems and parallel service roads.

He said an agreement on the size of the fund could be reached next week.

"We are also waiting on the SRT and their contractor to move out railway signal towers on a 900-metre stretch of land that is standing in the way of our targeted area, he added.

Construction of the entire Thai-Chinese high-speed railway's 607km-route from Bangkok to Nong Khai is due to be complete by 2022, according to Transport Ministry reports.


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