PM urges talks in city rail dispute

PM urges talks in city rail dispute

Bidders want MRTA to scrap changes

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, left, receives a briefing on the Orange Line construction under Ramkhamhaeng Road in Bangkok in March last year. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, left, receives a briefing on the Orange Line construction under Ramkhamhaeng Road in Bangkok in March last year. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is urging parties who are disputing cancellation of the bidding for the MRT's Orange Line western extension to come together for talks.

"Although I have no authority to intervene in these matters, I want all state agencies involved in the process to figure out a way out of these problems without causing any negative legal repercussions," the prime minister said on Wednesday.

Gen Prayut's remarks were an apparent reference to Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTSC), one of the bidders, and the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA), the state agency overseeing the project, and their ongoing legal dispute.

Last week, BTSC filed a petition with the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases against the MRTA for cancelling the bidding for the 120-billion-baht project early last month.

The MRTA decided to cancel the bid altogether after the BTSC protested its decision to change the bidding terms for the project after several bid envelopes with the original terms of reference had been sold to potential bidders.

The changes relate to the judging criteria -- the original terms of reference said the bids will be scored based on their technical specifications and return of investment.

However, the MRTA later changed its terms of reference to focus more on a revenue sharing model over technical specifications and investment returns, which upset the firm.

The BTSC, which had purchased a bidding envelope with the original terms of reference, decided to ask the Central Administrative Court to issue an injunction against the bidding.

The court said the change was likely to be unlawful and ordered the MRTA to suspend the bidding until it hands down its final ruling on the matter.

The MRTA, however, decided to cancel the bidding last month, which ended up courting further trouble as the BTSC filed a petition with the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Case against the agency.

Also last week, the MRTA announced on its website it was inviting the public to comment on the new terms of reference, a move which bidders like BTSC believe signals a new round of bidding.

The court is set to begin examining the BTSC's petition on March 15. It is unclear how long it will take.

Once completed, the western extension of the MRT Orange Line will have 11 underground stations along the 13.4-kilometre route, linking Bangkok's eastern and western suburbs.

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