Final Thai-Chinese high-speed rail contracts to be signed soon

Construction News
A model of the first section (Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima) of the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway is displayed in 2017. The long-delayed line is now expected to be completed in 2028. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Final Thai-Chinese high-speed rail contracts to be signed soon

Progress expected on long-delayed first phase from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) expects the last two construction contracts for the first phase of the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway to be signed soon, according to Deputy Transport Minister Surapong Piyachote.

The 179.4-billion-baht project connects Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima stretching 251 kilometres. The construction work is divided into 14 contracts with just two remaining to be signed.

According to Mr Surapong, contract No 4-5 covers the 13.3km Ban Pho–Phra Kaeo section in Ayutthaya with a budget of 9.9 billion baht. It will be signed after a heritage impact assessment (HIA) report on the proposed Ayutthaya station is completed, he said.

The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy expects to submit the HIA report to Unesco this month, Mr Surapong said. Approval is expected as the UN agency has been closely monitoring the HIA process, he added.

“There shouldn’t be a problem because the HIA, the first of its kind in Thailand, was conducted [voluntarily] even though the planned construction of the railway section and the attached Ayutthaya station does not even pass through any part of Ayutthaya’s World Heritage site,” he said.

The other construction contract, No 4-1, concerns a 15.2km section between Bang Sue and Don Muang in Bangkok. The initial design called for it to be linked to the high-speed railway linking three airports — Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao.

Construction of the latter has not yet started as Asia Era One Company — the CP Group-led consortium that holds the concession — sought to renegotiate some terms of its contract. Those issues have been largely resolved and Board of Investment (BoI) approval is expected by May 22.

If the BoI does not approve investment promotion for the project, the government must find another solution, said Mr Surapong. One option would be for the SRT to invest solely in the Bang Sue-Don Muang section to ensure its high-speed rail line does not fall even further behind schedule.

Delayed numerous times since first being agreed on by Thailand and China in 2015, the first-phase line is now scheduled to be completed in 2028.

A final decision by the SRT on the matter is expected later next month, Mr Surapong said.