Steps towards a major overhaul of the Airport Rail Link will start to unroll within three or four months, according to the line operator.
Construction bids for an Airport Rail Link extension between Don Mueang, Bang Sue and Phaya Thai are expected to be called by September or October, said Pakorn Tangjetsakao, acting president of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) Electric Train Co.
The design plan and environmental impact assessment for the 21.4km extension, likely to cost 31 billion baht, are complete.
The SRT is now writing up the terms of reference for the bidding, which will take place online through an e-auction.
“We expect to sign a contract with the private contractor this year, and begin construction next year,” Mr Pakorn said.
Under this time frame, the service could be launched by 2019, he said.
The route will establish links between Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports, which will make it more convenient for airline passengers travelling between the two airports.
The SRT estimates the route will attract an additional 40,000-50,000 rail passengers per day, bringing total daily commuters to roughly 100,000.
In anticipation of the change, the company will purchase seven new trains with four carriages each, bringing the Airport Link’s City Line trains to a total of 12.
The trains should be delivered by 2017, Mr Pakorn said.
The Airport Rail Link also plans to embark on a major maintenance campaign for its trains, and will hold a second e-auction for the maintenance contract, the terms of which are also being drafted now.
“After we announce the maintenance bid winner, we will need eight or nine months to obtain spare parts, so repairs are likely to commence in mid-2016,” Mr Pakorn said.
“With each train requiring 45 days for major repairs, fixing all nine trains could take more than a year.
“But small repairs have been carried out consistently,” he added.
With the new trains and major maintenance repairs done, the lag times between trains should drop from 12-15 minutes to less than 10 minutes.
Mr Pakorn said the system of using public-private partnerships to carry out state projects helps financially, but also makes it more difficult for the government to determine the direction of the project.