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Tue, June 27, 2006 : Last updated 19:46 pm (Thai local time)



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Home > Business > Sino-Thai share price nosedives





RAIL LINK CRACKS
Sino-Thai share price nosedives

Demolition starts on pylons for line to the new airport

Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction Plc's share price plunged yesterday to a three-year low after it was confirmed cracks had been found in 14 pylons of the Airport Rail Link project, leading to demolition of two of them. The government has ordered an investigation.

The share price for the construction company, the main contractor for the 28-kilometre Bt25.9-billion project, tumbled 8.62 per cent to Bt4.98 during morning trading. It closed down again at Bt4.90.

KGI Securities (Thailand) yesterday advised clients to sell the stock, as it looked set to be hit hard by recent events.

"The company also suffers from high wages, in addition to high oil and steel prices. With all the political uncertainty, it is unlikely to win more projects," the securities company said in a research report.

Transport Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal yesterday assigned an investigation team to look into the ongoing construction of the elevated rail-link project, after cracks were found in 14 concrete supports for the rail track. Two of the structural pylons had to be dismantled.

He said confirmation of the cracks would likely cause a further delay in construction, which is already running 10 per cent behind schedule.

Pongsak said he ordered an engineering team to investigate the matter and submit its results within two weeks. The team will focus on three points: the cause of the cracks, the severity of the cracks and ways to fix them.

"If the construction fails to live up to standards, we must fix it. We have to use whatever means possible to fix it, regardless of whether we must dismantle and rebuild the entire structure," said Pongsak.

He said the contractors would be responsible for any additional costs.

Pongsak was speaking after he inspected the site following confirmation by the State Railway of Thailand and the project contractors of cracks in the pylons that support the tracks of the Airport Rail Link project, which will connect Makkasan Train Station to Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The confirmation came after days of press reports of cracks in the elevated rail link.

Officials tested the structure by pumping water into the pylons and found it leaked through the cracks.

Out of 212 pylons tested, cracks were found in 14. Two of those were dismantled, and a decision is being made as to whether a third should also be torn down. Cracks in the remaining 11 were minor, no more than 0.3 millimetre thick, and should not affect the structures' handling capability.

Pongsak said the structure had been designed to last 75 years. He added that it would be normal for cracks to occur in some segments, but if the cracks were too severe, they might cause the iron in the structure to corrode, so he had instructed officials to make repairs quickly.

The cracks are likely to cause even more problems for beleaguered Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is scheduled to open on September 28. Even before the cracks, corruption scandals and construction accidents had already delayed its opening.

Sino-Thai started the Airport Rail Link project on February 19 of last year and was supposed to finish the project in 900 days, or by the end of next year.

If the Airport Rail Link fails to start operating on time, it will affect airport passengers, who will have to make the trip into Bangkok by bus or car.

Suvarnabhumi Airport is designed to accommodate as many as 45 million passengers a year and take over much of the traffic from Bangkok's ageing, overcrowded Don Muang Airport.

Watcharapong Thongrung

The Nation








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