Khon Kaen gears up electric rail project

Khon Kaen gears up electric rail project

Publicly-funded scheme to offer 15 baht flat rate

The country's first publicly funded electric rail project in Khon Kaen is promising passengers a flat rate of 15 baht per ride on its 22.6 kilometre-long route.

The project announced the rate after a formal study confirmed the single rate fare of just 15 baht would help the business break even, said Thirasak Thikhayuphan, mayor of Khon Kaen municipality, yesterday.

The construction of the 20 billion-baht project is expected to take about three years, he said.

Since the project's Oct 17 approval by the government's committee on land transport system management, the Khon Kaen light rail project has achieved considerable progress in implementation and a start to construction is pending, he said.

The project awaits one more step in the approval process before it can proceed, Mr Thirasak said.

The Ministry of Agriculture must approve the project's application to use the Khon Kaen Rice Research Centre's land for construction of a train station and for commercial development under the project, he said.

"As soon as the project wins approval from the ministry for that section of the project, construction will officially begin as we have been through all of the other necessary approval processes," he said.

At this point, the centre's land will also be used for construction of condominiums for middle-income earners, in a project aimed at demonstrating that a condominium isn't something only rich people can afford, he said.

A kaem ling water retention pond will also be built in the area to prevent frequent flooding on Si Than Road and Mittraphap Road in Khon Kaen, Mr Thirasak said.

At every other station of the rail project, space will be developed for commercial purposes as well, including space for shop operations and advertisement billboards, he said.

This is part of the project's commercial development plan, he added.

KKTS Co, a company set up and registered by five municipalities, is running the project.

The five are Khon Kaen municipality, Muang Sila municipality, tambon Tha Phra municipality, tambon Samran municipality and Muang Kao municipality.

Mr Thirasak said funds would be obtained through fundraising and loans from financial institutions. The company will not seek help from the government.

KKTS Co has confirmed its construction plan with the financial institutions it has been in touch with regarding the loans, he said.

The company also plans to sell shares to investors nationwide but will give priority to interested parties in Khon Kaen who are promised shares at par value, he said.

The company aims to promote a sense of belonging in the project among the locals, he added.

The project is an initiative directed by the people of Khon Kaen, who want to develop the province into Thailand's most "perfect" city and will win global recognition for it, he said.

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