Orange Line services 'by 2023'
The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) is expecting to ask the cabinet to approve the western section of the MRT's Orange Line by the end of next month, although opinions on construction methods and operating options are still divided.
While Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul -- who oversees the Transport Ministry -- wants the main route and the extension to be separated into two different contracts, the Finance Ministry wants the entire project, which is estimated to be worth 122 billion baht, to proceed under one agreement.
The Finance Ministry recently rejected Mr Anutin's idea to separate the project into different contracts, telling the Secretariat of the Cabinet that it stands firm on the original to have a private company co-invest in the project under a single contract, as approved by the public-private partnership (PPP) committee.
The Finance Ministry does not want Mr Anutin to override the PPP committee's approval, though Mr Anutin reasoned that separating the works into two contracts will confer greater benefits in terms of investment diversification and income distribution.
MRTA governor Pakapong Sirikantaramas expressed his confidence that disagreement on the matter will "not drag on".
"The cabinet will be able to deliberate on the project before the end of the year, and services [on the Orange Line] should start in 2023," he said.
Withun Hathaiwatthana, deputy managing director of Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc (BEM), also supports the Finance Ministry's stance.
"The single contract can help lower construction costs, as there is no need to spend money on 'unnecessary designs'," he said.
BEM, the current operator of the MRT's Blue Line, is interested in bidding for the project, as 75% of the new tracks are underground.
"That matches BEM's 15-year experience as a subway operator," he said.
Once completed, the 35.9-kilometre electrified tracks will link Thailand Cultural Centre with Bang Khun Non, on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River.