Thailand slows down planned high-speed train lines

Democrat-initiated plans require further studies

Transport Minister Sukampol Suwannathat has put the brakes on the previous government’s high-speed train project, saying he needs to thoroughly study it before it can be implemented.

ACM Sukampol said construction of the high-speed lines between Bangkok and Nong Khai and Bangkok and Padang Besar in Malaysia under a joint development framework between Thailand and China, which had earlier been approved by the Democrat-led government, would be put on hold.

He said details of the project, from the terms of joint development agreements to the advantages and commercial viability of all train lines, had to be studied.

“I have to look into details of the project from relevant agencies before making a decision on whether the project should go ahead or which train line will be constructed first,” said ACM Sukampol.

“But I assure you that the ministry will [eventually] carry out the high-speed train project, as it is the Pheu Thai Party’s policy.”

The preceding Democrat-led government had pushed for the construction of five high-speed train lines _ between Bangkok and Nong Khai (615 kilometres), Bangkok and Rayong (221 km), Bangkok and Padang Besar (982 km), Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani (570 km) and Bangkok and Chiang Mai (345 km).

The Pheu Thai government had promised during its election campaign that it would construct high-speed train lines between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok and Hua Hin and expand the Airport Rail Link from Suvarnabhumi airport to tourism and business locations along the Eastern Seaboard.

A source at the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTTPP) said the office would propose to the government that feasibility studies be conducted for high-speed train lines between Bangkok and Chiang Mai and Bangkok and Rayong.

So far no funding has been set aside for the feasibility studies for construction of the two train lines, added the source.

The agency needed at least two years for the study.

The OTTPP found the rail line between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima should be given the first priority, followed by Bangkok and Hua Hin, and then the Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Rayong lines.

On construction of new mass transit lines, ACM Sukampol said projects where bidders have already been selected will go ahead as scheduled, while projects pending approval must be studied again to make sure they match the government’s mass transit plan.

The minister said he agreed that operations of all mass transit systems should be integrated for greater management efficiency.

Currently, only the BTS skytrain is under the management of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, said the minister.

He insisted that he would have no need to review transport projects initiated by the previous government so long as they continue to be properly carried out.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said he had no concern about Pheu Thai’s move to investigate alleged irregularities in projects carried out by his government.

Mr Abhisit said he was confident the former ministers under his government would be able to clarify projects under their supervision.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/252824/sukampol-slows-down-high-speed-lines