7 firms turn up for airport link auction

7 firms turn up for airport link auction

Seven bidders turned up at the first day of the auction process for the 224-billion-baht high-speed railway project Monday set to link Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports.

The number of bidders has not been finalised yet. Both domestic and foreign firms can purchase project bidding papers at the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) until July 9. Each bidder needs to pay one million baht for the bidding documents.

Of the seven firms listed by the SRT Monday, four had been widely expected by the media and investors to participate in the bidding.

They are BTS Group Holdings Plc (BTSG), Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD) and PTT Plc (PTT).

The other three are Japanese trading company Itochu Corporation, Chinese state enterprise Sinohydro and Unique Construction & Engineering Plc, an established local contractor. The next step from July to October allows bidding firms to ask questions about the project.

Bidders are expected to submit official changes they wish to add to their bidding proposals in November.

The SRT has yet to reveal the date that it plans to announce the winning firm, though the results will likely be known this year.

Construction is expected to start some time next year and the railway to be operational in 2023.

The project is the centrepiece of the government's high-profile Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) industrial scheme.

The military government is working fast to help it get off the ground.

The EEC committee, headed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, approved the project and investment in late March and the SRT announced the terms of reference last month. The 220km line will connect Bangkok to Rayong, via the three airports.

The high-speed trains will run at 250kph maximum, making the travel time from Bangkok to U-Tapao around 45 minutes. The SRT expects the ticket cost to be around 330 baht each.

On top of that, the system will plug in to the present Airport Rail Link (ARL), enabling commuters to board at Phaya Thai terminal in Bangkok and travel to Rayong.

Projects under the 2018 EEC Act, announced in the Royal Gazette last month, allow foreign investors to own up to a 51% stake, compared with the normal investment law capping their share at 49%.

The winning bidder is also expected to take over the ARL's operations, as the network has incurred a 1.79-billion-baht loss under the SRT's ownership.

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