Airport rail deal talks put on hold

Airport rail deal talks put on hold

Partner discussions force short delay

Charoen Pokphand chief executive Suphachai Chearavanont, standing right, leads his team to submit a bid for a high-speed train project connecting Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports in November last year. (File photo)
Charoen Pokphand chief executive Suphachai Chearavanont, standing right, leads his team to submit a bid for a high-speed train project connecting Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports in November last year. (File photo)

A consortium led by Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group) has asked to put off Thursday's talks with the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) over a high-speed rail project linking three major airports. The talks are likely to begin next Thursday.

The consortium submitted the lowest bid price for the rail project linking Don Mueang airport in Bangkok with Suvarnabhumi in Samut Prakan and U-Tapao in Rayong. It consists of CP, Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc, China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, Ch Karnchang Plc, and Italian-Thai Development Plc.

The contractual negotiations of the project, however, have yet to reach a final conclusion. The last talks took place on March 19.

Both sides earlier agreed to meet again today.

SRT acting governor Worawut Mala said on Wednesday the consortium had asked to postpone the talks scheduled to take place on Thursday, saying negotiations among business partners of the consortium have yet to reach a conclusion.

Mr Worawut said the consortium was told that it can defer the talks but it needs to explain why the meeting has to be postponed.

"The CP consortium has replied that the next meeting would take place on April 4," said Mr Worawut.

The recent negotiation pivots on an additional set of 12 proposals for the 220-kilometre project.

In the meeting last week, the consortium agreed that the project would run under a 50-year concession, but it can be extended if the government feels that the consortium is running it effectively and responsibly.

The SRT is also handling another high-speed train project between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima under a Thai and Chinese agreement.

Thai officials and their Chinese counterparts have yet to reach a deal on the so-called "Contract 2.3", which involves tracks, an electricity system, machinery, procurement of train carriages and training.

It is one of 14 separate deals that are required for the 252.5-kilometre-long section from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.

President of the State Railway Workers Union of Thailand, Sawit Kaewwan, meanwhile, did not express any concerns about the new government that will have to hold talks with the potential private operators slated to develop the high-speed rail projects.

The government must not kowtow to private operators in relation to the issue of state property, Mr Sawit said.

The administration cannot afford to give in, particularly regarding extra proposals out of the terms of reference, he said.

Referring to the Thai-Sino rail project, Mr Sawit stressed that the government must protect the national interest and must not allow foreigners to take advantage of the country.

If both rail deals collapse because the government attaches importance to the national interest, people would happily accept that and be ready to support the administration, he said.


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