Pace picks up on fast train project

Economy March 09, 2018 01:00

By The Nation

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THE Ministry of Transport (MOT) expects to have 13 contracts under the first phase of the Thailand-China high-speed train project put out for bidding this year.

 Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said that, in total, 14 contracts would be signed for the 253-kilometre first phase, from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, with investment of about Bt179 billion.

Under the first contract signed, work began on a 3.5-kilometre section of the route on December 21. Bids are expected to be opened for the second contract – for an 11-kilometre section from Sikhio to Kut Chik – by May, said Arkhom, adding the Chinese side had sent its designs for the work to the ministry.

The Chinese partners will also send their designs for the remaining 12 contracts to the ministry.

The following five contracts are projected to be ready to be put to bids in June. The remaining contracts under the first phase would likely enter the bidding process in December.

Thailand will design the second phase of the route, the 355-kilometre section from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai,, which will be linked with China’s high-speed train service in Laos. The overall project forms part of China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure programme. China will be the adviser on the project, with expectations for the design to take six to eight months to be completed.

Officials from China, Laos and Thailand will meet to discuss the design of a bridge connecting Nong Khai to the Lao capital Vientiane. Extended discussions and a study period are expected to take about three to four months before a design can be put out.

In regard to a separate proposed high-speed train project, a 672-kilometre route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Japan has completed its study of the first phase. This covers Bangkok to Pitsanulok; the ministry will hand over the study to the Cabinet in April. The second phase connects Pitsanulok with Chiang Mai.

Arkhom said that the ministry also plans to propose at that Cabinet meeting a number of other double-track railway projects: Denchai-Chiang Mai at Bt60 billion; Denchai-Chiang Rai-Chiang Khong at Bt76-billion; Ban Pai-Nakhon Phanom at Bt60-billion; and Chiira Intersection-Ubon Ratchathani at Bt48-billion.

These projects are expected to be opened for bidding in the third quarter of this year, he said.

If the four projects gain the investment as planned, the proportion of double-track railway projects in the country will be raised from 33 per cent to 67 per cent, accounting for a combined 3,000 kilometres out of a total rail network of about 4,000 kilometres.

The ministry will also propose to the Cabinet at that April meeting several mass transit systems projects, including the 8.9-kilometre Dark Red Line, the Rangsit-Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus segments; and 19.5-kilometre Light Red Line, and the Taling Chan-Siriraj Hospital and Taling Chan-Salaya segments.

Arkhom said Bang Sue station will be developed as an area to connect major transportation corridors in Bangkok and for other provinces, given that its central station is envisaged as connecting the Mass Rapid Transit system, some of the high-speed trains and double-track railways.

The 35-rai site at Bang Sue Station will be developed in the first phase for commercial purposes. Having received approval from a committee on public-private partnership (PPP), the next step is to set up a committee to draft the terms of reference for private enterprises to bid for the area’s development.

“Bang Sue is a central city area and we will develop it under the concept of a smart city. Aside from being developed commercially, the area will need to be developed in its infrastructure, such as for adequate electricity and Internet connections and the like, we expect to open the bidding this year,” Arkhom said.