As debt saga lingers, BMA gets new deadline to find solution

As debt saga lingers, BMA gets new deadline to find solution

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) must clarify its proposed solution to unpaid debts with the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) by May 15, the Transport Ministry said Monday.

The debts have arisen due to the costs of building northern and southern extensions for the the Green Line -- commonly known as the Sukhumvit Line. As a government agency, the MRTA falls under the ministry's control.

According to the ministry's reports, authority will be transferred to the MRTA to propose a suitable solution if City Hall is unable to meet the deadline.

Newly appointed MRTA governor Pakapong Sirikantaramas said Monday the authority has already been "unofficially" preparing to operate the extensions itself.

However it must wait for the Bangkok Metropolitan Council to release an official agreement on its move, he added. The council is due to discuss the unpaid debts by next month.

The government decided earlier to transfer ownership of the Green Line's northern extensions from Mor Chit-Saphan Mai-Khu Khot and its southern extensions from Bearing-Samut Prakan to the BMA, the concession-giver for the main Sukhumvit Line.

But construction work had already been carried out by the MRTA.

A Transport Ministry meeting last month concluded City Hall must pay the authority 78 billion baht for jurisdiction to be fully transferred. This comprises 58 billion baht in construction costs as well as system installation costs of around 20 billion baht.

Reports from the meeting state City Hall will begin honouring its debt by 2030, and must repay it in full by 2042. Despite this, it has to begin paying interest fees of 2.1 billion baht a year to the MRTA from next year.

Mr Pakapong said Monday a clear conclusion to problem of the unpaid debt can only be drawn once the BMA hears a decision from its council.

"City Hall representatives from [Monday's] meeting have told us that the authorities will push the matter forward at their upcoming council meeting," he said. "Concerning the unpaid debt, it is a matter they [City Hall] must first address."

According to Transport Ministry reports, the Green Line's Bearing-Samut Prakan extensions are set to open by the end of this year, while initial parts of the Mor Chit-Saphan Mai-Khu Khot extensions will be open by next year.

In a related development, firebrand activist Srisuwan Janya will today submit a formal complaint asking Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to establish a committee to look at the MRTA for an alleged name change of one station on the Green Line's northern extension network.

According to him, the name of "Bang Bua" station, which is due to be located near Sripatum University, was changed to "Sripatum" station without the public's knowledge.

He said he had received complaints from people living around the Bang Bua area that the alleged name change was not done for "the good of the public."

"The MRTA's use of its authority in this case signals that it could be benefitting a private institution," he added.

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