Legal disputes may delay Bangkok’s Orange Line, warns MRTA
The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) on Monday expressed concern that the opening of the Orange Line’s eastern section might be delayed due to legal disputes involving the western extension.
The eastern section connecting the Thailand Cultural Centre and Min Buri, which is being constructed, is scheduled to open in August 2025, while the opening of a train service on the western section linking the Thailand Cultural Centre and Taling Chan is due for December 2027.
Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc (BEM) recently won the bid to jointly invest with the government in building the western section and operating the trains on both sections.
However, the MRTA cannot sign the contract with the firm as several lawsuits challenging the bids have not been settled.
MRTA governor Pakapong Siri- kantaramas said the legal wrangles that are delaying the western scheme are likely to affect the eastern project’s opening and maintenance of civil engineering work.
The eastern section’s civil engineering work is 98.8% completed, and the agency is assessing maintenance costs, he said.
The MRTA is also negotiating with the builder of the eastern section to help shoulder the costs. It is also holding talks with BEM to speed up its hand-over of the civil engineering work of the eastern section, Mr Pakapong said.
“It’s difficult to proceed because of the lawsuits,” he said. “MRTA really wants the project to launch operations as planned. I think we have to wait for the signing of the contract before we can expedite things, including procurement of the trains.”
Construction work of the eastern section will be fully completed within this year, Mr Pakapong added.
The western section has faced delays for over two years due to a series of lawsuits triggered by the MRTA’s cancellation of the first round of bidding. The skytrain operator BTS has alleged that the bid terms were changed to ensure that it would not be able to compete.
The project was again put in the spotlight when former massage parlour tycoon Chuvit Kamolvisit vowed to expose more alleged corruption at the Ministry of Transport, particularly in the Orange Line project.
The Constitutional Court last week suspended Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob pending a ruling on his alleged concealment of shares in a construction firm that won contracts from the ministry.
Last Friday, the MRTA issued a statement defending the transparency of the Orange LIne project and the second round of the bidding in which BEM won the bid.