State Railway of Thailand to dust off old Airport Rail Link (ARL) maintenance plan

Construction News

State Railway of Thailand to dust off old Airport Rail Link (ARL) maintenance plan

Bid war over airport rail link continues

25 February 2019

The State Railway of Thailand is mulling a contingency plan for the maintenance and operation of the Airport Rail Link (ARL), as negotiations with private firms over a high-speed railway project connecting three major airports in and around Bangkok are expected to drag on.

Suthep Panpeng, director-general of the SRT Electric Train Co, which operates the ARL, said if the negotiations involving the high-speed railway project linking Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports is not finished by July or August, the firm needs to revamp the network’s operation and maintenance plan.

He said the next round of major maintenance of the ARL system is scheduled for 2021, and it is expected to be carried out by the bid winner. “But if the system is still in our possession, the job will be undertaken by the SRT,” said Mr Suthep.

He added that if the project is delayed for more than two years or scrapped, the company will also have to dust off a plan to procure new carriages to serve growing demand. The SRT originally planned to buy seven carriages, but the scheme was put on hold pending the bid.

The winning bidder of the high-speed train project is expected to take over the ARL’s operations. An asset transfer contract will be signed once the talks are concluded, tentatively scheduled for next month, and the firm will operate the ARL for two years during the transition, or until 2021.

Last week, SRT’s bidding committee rejected a proposal by the consortium led by Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), even though it offered the lowest bid at 117.2 billion baht.

The CP-led consortium comprises CP, Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc, China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd, Ch Karnchang Plc, and Italian-Thai Development Plc.

The group came up with 12 conditions — including a concession extension from 50 years to 99 years, and a revenue guarantee — which were seen by the committee as going against the cabinet resolution.

The bidding committee plans to ask if the group would like to continue with the negotiations. A meeting is scheduled for March 5.

If the talks with the CP-led consortium collapse, the SRT will enter talks with BSR Joint Venture — which is made up of Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc, Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction Plc, and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Plc.

The 220-kilometre-long high-speed train will connect Bangkok to Rayong, via the three airports. With a maximum speed of 250kph, a trip from Bangkok to U-Tapao will take about 45 minutes, with a fare of 330 baht one way.

The rail project is a part of the government’s highly-publicised Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.