Rail land handover on track

Rail land handover on track

EEC Office unveils delivery timeframe

The venue of the bidding contest for the construction of the high-speed railway to link three main airports, at Airport Rail Link's office in Bangkok last November. (File photo)
The venue of the bidding contest for the construction of the high-speed railway to link three main airports, at Airport Rail Link's office in Bangkok last November. (File photo)

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office on Wednesday insisted that land needed for the high-speed railway linking three airports will be handed over on time, after the CP Group-led consortium confirmed it will sign the contract on Oct 25 as scheduled.

Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, gave the assurances as he unveiled a land delivery plan for the 224-billion-baht rail system linking the capital's Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi with U-Tapao airport in Rayong.

The 220km high-speed railway is one of five ambitious infrastructure megaprojects that will serve the EEC.

According to Mr Kanit, the delivery plan, approved by the EEC Policy Committee, is the first of its kind and will guarantee that land is handed over in time to the bid winner. Budgets to execute the plan are expected to be ready in November, he said.

Delays in the contract signing were reportedly due in part to the CP-led consortium's concerns over land expropriation and eviction problems.

"This is the first time we have a clear-cut timeframe for land delivery as well as a budget. Previously we let the contractors negotiate with state agencies," said Mr Kanit.

"We can definitely deliver the land. But even if we can't, it won't be a problem or be used by the bid winner to cancel the contract [as] the timeframe can be extended without financial cost. These are risks specified in the Request for Proposal [RFP]."

The plan is divided into three sections, with land for the first 28km section -- the Airport Rail Link connecting Phaya Thai station to Suvarnabhumi -- now ready to be handed over, according to Mr Kanit.

Delivery of land for the second section -- a 170km stretch from Suvarnabhumi to Rayong's U-Tapao -- is scheduled to proceed within 15 months, extendable to a maximum 24 months, of the contract signing.

Land for the final section of 22km from Don Mueang to Phaya Thai is scheduled for handover within 27 months, extendable to 48 months, of the contract signing, he said.

Worawut Mala, acting governor of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) which is responsible for delivering the land, said on Wednesday the plan will be attached to the contract while insisting the process was being handled in line with the RFP.

Speaking after an EEC Policy Committee meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said certain conditions involving the land delivery had been adjusted slightly to allow flexibility.

Asked about the adjustment, he said it concerns "understanding about land delivery and relocation of infrastructure".

He said the adjustment was of mutual benefit to the state and the contractor, while the government would not be held financially responsible for any delays in the handover.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had instructed authorities to try their best to support the rail project, Mr Anutin said.

The prime minister will preside over the contract signing on Oct 25.

Meanwhile, public scepticism over the handover plans has grown with news the timeframe for third-section land delivery can be extended to four years.

A source at the SRT's workers union said the extendable period was a problem because the high-speed railway is set to launch in 2024.

The SRT workers union earlier warned the state railway agency would likely miss the handover deadline under the project and as a result may have to pay hefty compensation to the contractor.

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