Rail project pitched at Japan investors

Economy February 10, 2018 01:00


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THAILAND is seeking to have Japan’s Kyushu Railway Co come on board for the proposed Bangkok-Rayong high-speed train service and join the bidding for the key project when it is opened to investors, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said.

Somkid, who led a Thai delegation to Fukuoka in Japan, said he discussed the project with Kyushu Railway chairman Toshihiko Aoyagi.

The 300-kilometre route will connect three key international airports: Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok ,and U-Tapao in Rayong province. This project is one of the major transport infrastructure projects planned for the country’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

Somkid said the terms of reference for the project will be released in the next two months.

“This company is similar to the SRT (State Railway of Thailand), which earlier suffered loss,” Somkid of Kyushu Railway. “But the company adopted a new business model, using its real-estate holdings around stations for tourism business to generate more income. So, we want the company to seriously join hands with the SRT to operate the rail system for tourism benefits.”

Fukuoka-based Kyushu Railway, known as JR Kyushu, operates regular rail lines on the island of Kyushu, including a Shinkansen bullet-train line.

Somkid said that the bill on the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which gained approval from the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday, will improve investors’ confidence in the EEC plans. The passage of the legislation will speed up both the drafting of the terms of reference for the big infrastructure projects in the EEC and the opening of the bidding for these projects.

More than 900 Japanese investors from Fukuoka and other cities on Kyushu island attended a presentation given by Somkid, entitled “Thailand as a Key Driver of Regional Economic Growth”. The seminar was staged by Thailand’s Board of Investment in Fukuoka, the capital of Fukuoka prefecture.

Somkid said that the Fukuoka Silicon Sea Belt enhanced transnational inter-linkages between regional clusters in manufacturing, trade and investment serving modern industries in Fukuoka, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. He said the Japanese city has achieved high-level agricultural development and promoted startup ventures. The district also benefits from famous scenic attractions.

Kobsak Pootrakul, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, said that Thai government would push for investment of more than Bt2 trillion over eight years to boost the country’s competitiveness through investment in rail systems, the commercial development of U-Tapao airport and the developments of major ports as a means to drive Thailand forward as the centre of a sub-region that will become the single production powerhouse in the future. The economic growth of this sub-region is expected at 7-8 per cent for 15 years.

 “Investment in Thailand appears attractive for investors seeking opportunities to use the country as a manufacturing base for export to larger markets, like GMS (Greater Mekong Subregion), with a total population of more than 230 million,” Kobsak said.

Veerasak Futrakul, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that Thailand will establish a consulate in Fukuoka, the third for Japan after Tokyo and Osaka. The move reflects Thailand’s emphasis on investment and tourism from the south of Japan, extending from Kyushu and Hiroshima to Okinawa.

The Thai Cabinet approved the establishment of the new consulate on January 16 and the Japanese government accepted Thailand’s request on February 7. The consulate is expected to open in October.

In addition, the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism Authority of Thailand also plan to set up offices in Fukuoka this year.