BANGKOK: — The Cabinet yesterday approved the 1-metre-gauge dual-track rail route from Chira junction in Nakhon Ratchasima to Khon Kaen, which is part of the Transport Ministry’s infrastructure development scheme that kicks off this year.
“The Cabinet has approved the construction of the Chira-Khon Kaen rail route and instructed the ministry to commence with the investment plan while following up with the route from Map Kabao [in Saraburi province]to Chira, which is next in line” for approval, Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said.
The ministry plans to allocate Bt1.9 trillion over eight years to fund the infrastructure projects.
The highlights are the two high-speed dual-track railway projects worth Bt741 billion and six standard-gauge dual-track rail projects covering 887 kilometres worth Bt127 billion.
The 187km stretch approved yesterday is expected to cost Bt26 billion to build. Construction is expected to commence midyear, with operations starting by 2018.
The Chira-Khon Kaen route passed its environment impact assessment last year but the Map Kabao-Chira EIA has yet to gain approval. A Government House source said the EIA was expected to clear before the next Cabinet meeting.
The construction of all six standard-gauge dual-track rail routes, including the one approved yesterday, is expected to cost Bt117.4 billion. The other five routes are Prachuap Khiri Khan-Chumphon (167km), Nakhon Pathom-Hua Hin (165km), Map Kabao-Chira (132km), Lop Buri-Pak Nam Pho (148km) and Hua Hin-Prachuap Khiri Khan (90km).
The source also said the Cabinet discussed the possibility of extending a Bt4.5-billion official development assistance (ODA) loan to Myanmar to fund the construction of the 138km two-lane road between the Dawei Special Economic Zone in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region and Phunumron checkpoint in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province.
The discussion focused on a suitable interest rate.
The most likely outcome is to provide a three-year ODA loan with a zero-per-cent interest rate instead of the 1-2 per cent proposed earlier in exchange for the Thai side being able to build a storage tank for liquefied natural gas and a coal-fired power plant in Myanmar.
Myanmar has 30 years to pay the loan back. The ODA will be given in three tranches with a Bt1.5-billion budget each year, the source said.
Maj-General Sunsern Kaewkumnerd Sansern Kaewkamnerd, deputy government spokesman, said the law to govern the setting up of special economic zones in the border areas of Thailand would probably take the form of an executive decree rather than an act, whose approval process takes much longer.
The deadline for the ruling junta’s political road map is approaching and the prime minister along with the Cabinet believes that this is an urgent economic measure that needs to be in place within this government’s term, he said.