High-speed trains set to be shelved

The planned high-cost high-speed trains will most certainly be shelved by the National Council for Peace and Order, which is due to meet this week to discuss the sources to fund the new infrastructure development projects.

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It is quite clear now the four high-speed train development projects, costing more than 700 billion baht, will be put on hold as questions remain concerning the projects' appropriateness and benefits as well as economic viability, said a source who asked not to be named.

The Yingluck Shinawatra administration planned to build four high-speed train lines from Bangkok to provincial areas as part of the 2-trillion-baht borrowing bill which was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in March.

Construction of the first phase of the four routes — Bangkok-Phitsanulok, Bangkok-Hua Hin, Bangkok-Rayong and Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima — was expected to be completed by 2019.

According to the source, the new infrastructure projects are likely to tap the fiscal budget, borrowing and public-private partnerships (PPPs), and the outlay would be cut back to about 1.3 trillion baht against 2 trillion planned earlier by the Yingluck government.

Priority projects would primarily be dual-track railways, motorways, highways in remote areas, ports, an upgrade of existing four-land roads and skytrain extensions. Nonetheless, they have to go through the usual approval process in which the project's owners are required to  propose their development plans to the National Economic and Social Development Board for vetting and later for cabinet approval.

Chula Sukmanop, director-general of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, said construction of four-lane roads, ports, motorways and the skytrain extension should be based on the fiscal budget, while mass-transit routes and some dual-track railways should rely on domestic and foreign loans.

Projects for PPPs should go for motorways linking Nonthaburi's Bang Yai district with Kanchanaburi, Pattaya with Map Ta Phu, and Bang Pa-in with Nakhon Ratchasima.

The 98km Bang Yai-Kanchanaburi link is estimated to cost 55.6 billion baht including 5.2 billion baht for land expropriation and property compensation. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) and project design have been completed.

The 196km Bang Pa-in-Nakhon Ratchasima link requires an investment of 84.6 billion baht. Its EIA was approved in 2006.

The 32km Pattaya-Map Ta Phut motorway, meanwhile, needs investment of 14.2 billion baht.

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