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July 11, 2018

Thailand’s high-speed rail project enjoys popularity among bidders

The Thai Government has announced it has received over 30 bids from local and international companies to build the country’s first high-speed railway linking three major airports.

By Adele Berti

The Thai Government has announced it has received over 30 bids from local and international companies to build the country’s first high-speed railway linking three major airports.

State-owned railway operator the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), which is currently overseeing the bidding process, has seen 31 companies put forward proposals for the project in less than a month.

The country is planning to build a 220km rail line linking Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports in what has been described as the first large infrastructure project to be built in the Eastern Economic Corridor investment zone. The project is estimated to cost 225bn baht ($7.07bn) and will help to reduce the travel time between Bangkok and the corridor to under an hour.

As part of the project, the government also plans to expand the ports of Laem Chabang and Map Ta Phut, develop U-Tapao Airport and collaborate with Airbus and Thai Airways International to build maintenance facilities around the facility.

According to a statement from the SRT, 14 local companies are considering bidding for the high-speed project, competing with seven Chinese companies, four Japanese, two French, two Malaysian, one Italian and a South Korean consortium. Among them are multinational corporations including Japan’s Hitachi, French state-owned railway operator SNCF, China Resources and China Railway.

The local bidders include food processor Charoen Pokphand Group and BTS Group Holdings, which operates Bangkok’s Skytrain elevated railway. German railway giant Siemens and Canada’s Bombardier are also thought to have shown interest earlier this year.

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Thailand’s deputy minister for transport Pairin Chuchotethavorn said: “This shows that the high-speed train project is much-awaited … [and] has interested many Thai and foreign companies. I am surprised there are some Asian companies joining the bidding, particularly from South Korea and Malaysia.”

The SRT said it will meet with officials from the Eastern Economic Corridor and representatives from the 31 bidders on 24 July for a briefing, which will be followed by a tour of the construction sites. The deadline for submitting bids is 12 November 2018.

According to Nikkei Asian Review, sources close to the government said the Transport Ministry expects fewer bidders to submit their documents: “We expect some firms will join together and set up joint ventures or corporations to make it easier, in terms of financial structure, to bid for the project.”

The government is planning to announce the winner in December and kick off construction works at the beginning of 2019.

Earlier in February, the Thai National Legislative Assembly approved a set of rules that put the interested zone under civilian law in a bid to reassure foreign investors that the corridor spanning the eastern provinces of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao will remain, even if the junta led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha is replaced.

Thailand is currently holding final talks with Cambodia to build a cross-border railway link that will help boost trading relations between the two countries. The junta also recently gave the go-ahead for the construction of a high-speed railway connecting Thailand with China.

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