The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will call bids for rail construction projects worth more than 200 billion baht, including high-speed train and double-track rail projects, next year.
Acting SRT governor Worawut Mala said the SRT will speed up the bidding for the remaining five construction contracts worth 50 billion baht for the Thai-Chinese high-speed rail project linking Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima in the first and second quarters of next year.
There are a total of 14 contracts involved in construction of the 179-billion-baht, 253-kilometre rail route from the capital to Nakhon Ratchasima in the Northeast.
Construction is under way on a 3.5km section from Klang Dong to Pang Asok in Nakhon Ratchasima's Pak Chong district, under the first contract worth 425 million baht. The work began in December 2017 and is nearly complete, Mr Worawut said.
He added that the next bidding will be for construction of the Don Muang-Bang Sue section of the project.
Sorapong Paitoonphong, acting director-general of the Department of Rail Transport, said a meeting on Nov 26 concluded that a forward rate will be fixed when "Contract 2.3" is signed to ensure fairness for Thailand and Chinese investors.
The matter will be raised at the 28th meeting of the Thai-Chinese joint committee on rail cooperation this month.
The committee will choose which currency will be used and set the date for the signing of the contract, Mr Sorapong said.
"Contract 2.3", worth about 50.6 billion baht, involves the cost of purchasing tracks, electricity systems and machinery, as well as procurement of train carriages and training.
The high-speed train project's second phase, which will cost 200 billion baht to build, will run 355km from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai and the Lao border, forming part of China's Belt and Road Initiative.
Regarding the double-track rail construction projects, Mr Worawut said the SRT will next year seek cabinet approval for the bidding for a 26-billion-baht double-track rail project linking Khon Kaen and Nong Khai, a 36-billion-baht double-track rail project from Thanon Jira junction in Nakhon Ratchasima to Ubon Ratchathani, a 56-billion-baht double-track route from Pak Nam Pho in Nakhon Sawan to Den Chai district of Phrae, and a 23-billion-baht double-track project from Chumphon to Surat Thani.
An SRT source said it expects to open the bidding for the three extensions to its Red Line in January or February next year.
They are the 10.2-billion-baht Taling Chan-Salaya section, the 6.57-billion-baht Rangsit-Thammasat extension, and the 7.46-billion-baht Taling Chan-Siriraj stretch.
The Red Line is part of the SRT's major project to create an expansive network of urban trains, including the BTS Skytrain and the MRT that link the inner city with surrounding areas of Bangkok.
The most famous Red Line train is the Airport Rail Link that connects Suvarnabhumi Airport to the Phayathai area in downtown Bangkok.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said on Sunday he has instructed the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand to examine the financial standing of all Thai airlines which have received Air Operator Certificates, particularly those in dire financial straits.
Mr Saksayam said loss-ridden airlines must improve their business operations to meet the criteria and ensure passenger safety as they ply their trade.
Any airlines that fail to improve will have their certificates revoked so should start making plans for any changes now, he said.
The certificates are issued by a country's main civil aviation authority and allow aircraft operators to use aircraft for commercial purposes.