Good news on Thailand’s eastern corridor high-speed railway

Construction News
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, left, listens to a briefing on the development of U-Tapao airport which is a destination of the high-speed railway project to link three airports, in Rayong province on Sunday. (Photo: Government House)

Good news on Thailand’s eastern corridor high-speed railway

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is vowing to push for a high-speed railway project linking three main airports to ensure the success of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and he expects good news to revive the long-delayed railway project next month.

The prime minister voiced support for the 224-billion-baht railway project during his visit to U-Tapao airport in Ban Chang district of this eastern province on Sunday. U-Tapao is one of three main airports that the high-speed railway project will link. The high-speed railway project was originally expected to start service this year.

The very important project was seriously delayed and thus he paid the visit to speed it up, Mr Srettha said.

“If delay continues with the high-speed railway project linking three airports, how can we make the private sector confident? This project will be surely implemented. Otherwise, it would affect investment in the EEC,” the prime minister said.

After officials concerned briefed him on the project, Mr Srettha said that he expected good news on its resumption by the end of next month.

“I insist that it is the megaproject that is crucial to our economy… Concerts and festivals will happen in the Eastern Seaboard… If we have the high-speed railway, visitors will be confident,” he said.

According to the prime minister, the high-speed railway will facilitate transport between the East and Bangkok and distribute development and tourists from the capital to provinces in the EEC.

Deputy government spokeswoman Radklao Intawong said the construction of the railway project should have been accelerated in 2019 but Covid-19 had obstructed it. In addition, she said, the behavioural changes of consumers and tourists after the pandemic affected the finance of the project.

“Negotiations are underway for fairness,” she said.

Asia Era One, a Charoen Pokphand Group-led consortium, won the bidding to build the rail system in 2018. The State Railway of Thailand and the Office of the EEC have negotiated with the firm over changing parts of the contract to ensure the project is completed.

Under the original contract, in which the rail system is to be developed under a public-private partnership scheme, the government committed to investing about 111.9 billion baht. It would pay 3.57 billion baht for land appropriation and start paying the remaining 108.33 baht in the sixth year or after trains start running.

However, Asia Era One has asked the government to pay the company for ongoing construction work. The consortium comprises CP, Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc, China Railway Construction Corporation, Ch Karnchang Plc and Italian-Thai Development Plc.

The consortium has a 50-year licence to commercialise land at stations and under the rail route.

The high-speed railway linking Greater Bangkok’s Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports with U-Tapao airport in Rayong was originally scheduled to be launched commercially in 2024 as part of plans to develop the government’s flagship Eastern Economic Corridor high-tech investment hub scheme.