Lofty projects grind to a halt

Lofty projects grind to a halt

Government's legacy may well be a matter of unfinished - or failed - business

Launching a raft of megaprojects was to be the legacy of the military government. But the challenge is not about proposing projects but how to make them materialise.

Currently, the government and ministry officials are trying to move at least 11 schemes forward, with limited success.

These projects have suffered from cost blowouts and land expropriation problems.

As the projects drag on, it is likely that the schemes' costs will rise along with the price of construction materials and land plots.

The price of some land plots has soared by 200% since they received the green light.

One project struggling with land expropriation issues is a high-speed train scheme from Bangkok to Hua Hin.

The 100 billion baht project was shelved because the Department of Highways disapproved of the use of road medians along Phetkasem road in Phetchaburi for the rail project.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the Bangkok to Hua Hin high-speed train project is unlikely to get off the ground under this administration.

It still needs to be approved by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) and other agencies linked to the Finance Ministry.

Another scheme in trouble is the dual-track Ban Phai-Mukdahan-Nakhon Phanom railway project. The 67-billion project covers a 355 kilometre route.

Deputy permanent secretary for transport, Pisak Jitwiriyawasin, said land acquisition is becoming an issue because of the scope of the project. The land plots which the project requires overlap on 33 rai of Nakhon Phanom's special economic zone.

"The Treasury Department, State Railway of Thailand and Department of Land will discuss the issue and jointly survey the area to make it clear where the rail route would pass," Mr Pisak said.

He said he was uncertain whether the project would be tabled before the cabinet under this administration.

Another troubled project is the 20-billion-dual-track railway from Map Kabao in Saraburi to Thanon Chira Junction in Nakhon Ratchasima.

The project ran into opposition because residents refused the land expropriation. The project is still waiting for approval for construction bidding.

Local villagers are demanding elevated railways from Khlong Khanan Chit to Jira instead of tracks on the ground, a request that will add to the construction cost.

Another project concerns the urban Red rail line between Hua Lamphong and Mahachai in Samut Sakhon.

This project suffered from land expropriation problems that forced the authority to put it on hold. This has prompted firms, who have jointly developed the Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Khon Kaen, to propose a new option.

The capital's electric train projects have also been troubled by land expropriation problems.

The Purple Line's southern extension of the Tao Poon-Rat Burana section, worth 100 billion baht, and the Orange Line's Thailand Cultural Centre-Bang Khun Non section, valued at 235 billion baht are now hanging in the balance as to whether they will be tabled before the cabinet by May.

The Transport Ministry said it needs some time to negotiate with the owners of land around the Vajira Hospital in Dusit district, where the Purple Line's extension is planned.

For the Orange Line, the ministry also needs to ask approval to use land from the Fine Arts Department because the proposed route runs past a historical site.

The LRT project in Phuket, worth 30 billion baht, has also hit a snag and a plan to seek bidding early this year has been shot down.

It requires a reroute and some elevated tracks to meet acceptance by the Department of Highways (DOH) which expressed concern the tram project would endanger Phuket motorists.

Several road and bridge projects have also been affected by land expropriation issues. They include a motorway from Nakhon Pathom to Phetchaburi's Cha-am. The land expropriation budget has doubled to 18 billion baht.

About 50 local farmers in Phetchaburi earlier lodged a complaint with the DOH, saying the project would come at the expense of their farmland, which is the main income source for the residents.

The motorway could also cause local waterways to change directions, leading to flooding. Villagers have asked the DOH to reroute instead.

A 14-billion-baht expressway project running from Kathu-Patong-Phuket has had its construction bidding postponed for years due to the problem of land expropriation as well as construction design and economic viability. The new administration is likely to decide whether to press ahead with it.

A planned bridge linking Vibhavadi Rangsit Road with Kanchanaphisek Road, worth 30 billion baht, has been shelved at the behest of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to ward off opposition by the locals. The premier also assigned state agencies to find other ways to accommodate traffic flow.

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