JBIC pledges airport link loans

JBIC pledges airport link loans

Project bid planned for later this month

Work continues on the Bang Sue Grand Station in northern Bangkok's Chatuchak district. It is due to open in 2020 and serve as a transport hub. (Photo by Pornprom  Satrabhaya)
Work continues on the Bang Sue Grand Station in northern Bangkok's Chatuchak district. It is due to open in 2020 and serve as a transport hub. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) pledges to extend soft loans to finance Thailand's 224.54-billion-baht high-speed railway linking three major airports and other infrastructure projects in the government's highly touted Eastern Economic Corridor.

Chief executive and executive managing director Tadashi Maeda met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak Thursday. Mr Somkid said the Japanese bank is ready to partner with other countries to develop the train linking Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao airports.

The railway is to be developed under a public-private partnership scheme, with the government paying 3.57 billion baht for land appropriation and 108.33 billion over 10 years after the trains commence operations.

The build-operate-transfer project is valued at 224.54 billion baht and comes with a 50-year concession.

The bidding process is expected to begin this month, with private companies poised to submit their proposals and commence the screening process within a four-month window.

The government expects to announce the winner in November, Mr Somkid said.

The cabinet on March 28 approved the high-speed railway linking the three main airports and a 3.5-billion-baht budget to finance land appropriation.

The railway involves extending Bangkok's Airport Rail Link, which runs to Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province, to connect to Don Mueang airport in northern Bangkok and U-tapao in Rayong province.

The entire route will cover 220 kilometres, with a maximum speed of 250km per hour. The route spans nine high-speed stations: Don Mueang, Bang Sue, Makkasan, Suvarnabhumi, Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, Sri Racha, Pattaya and U-tapao.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is all smiles after visiting JBIC chief executive Tadashi Maeda pledged to help the three-airport rail link with a loan of ฿224.54 billion baht. (Photo courtesy Government House)

"It is the first time that Japan has been willing to work with other countries, including China, to develop the high-speed rail network," Mr Somkid said. "JBIC says that the agency is ready to support soft loans for the project, as it aims to create a linkage between China, Japan and Thailand."
He said Japan's Hitachi Co has also expressed interest in bidding on the project.

"The Japanese bank has provided assurances it is also ready to offer financial support with low-interest rates to companies which win bids to construct the high-speed rail project," Mr Somkid said, adding that he had urged Japan to focus on long-term economic returns.

He also called on JBIC to join the meeting of the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), which will be held in Thailand this June, calling members Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand the heart of Asean.

Thailand holds the ACMECS chair from October 2017 to June 2018.

The group is a cooperation framework using member countries' diverse strengths to promote balanced development in the subregion, he said. The Thai government initiated the establishment of the cooperation framework in April 2003. The areas of cooperation include transport, trade and investment facilitation.

Maj Gen Weerachon Sokondhapatipak, deputy government spokesman, said the upcoming ACMECS meeting is expected to announce ACMECS's master development plan for 2019-23.

The master plan comprises three objectives: seamless development of infrastructure projects in the subregion; economic development, especially for the joint establishment of the ACMECS infrastructure fund; and human and environmental development.

Thailand and Japan are scheduled to organise the fourth high-level joint commission meeting in July, with Mr Somkid set to attend.

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