SRT wants state to assume debt

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) wants to shoulder only about a fifth of its 109-billion-baht debt with the rest to be borne by the government.

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SRT deputy governor Viroj Triampongpan said the state railway will propose that it pay only about 20 billion baht of its total debt and that the government deal with investment for infrastructure projects and incurred losses.

The proposal is part of the SRT's rehabilitation plan, the details of which will be finalised before being submitted to the Transport Ministry by Friday.

It will then be forwarded to the State Enterprise Policy Commission and the National Council for Peace and Order for consideration.

SRT caretaker governor Prasert Attanan said splitting the debt burden with the government is key to tackling and alleviating the SRT's crippling losses.

This would also ease the  burden on the SRT caused by huge interest payments, he said.

Speaking about the five-year SRT restructuring plan, which ends this year, permanent secretary for transport Soithip Traisuth, said no progress has been made on dual-track railway construction, the purchase of locomotives and passenger carriages or the acquisition of a new signalling system.

These issues will instead have to be inserted into a new four-year plan due to start later this year, Ms Soithip said.

Details for this plan are still to be ironed out, she said.

Speaking about strategies to develop and use SRT land, Ms Soithip said the agency has three major plots in the heart of Bangkok.

These consist of a 512-rai plot in the Makkasan area, a 1,070-rai plot in the Phahon Yothin area and a 277-rai plot near Mae Nam station in Yannawa district. It also has 11 more plots in other provinces.

Ways must be found to increase the value of these assets, she said.

A decision must also be made as to whether the land around Makkasan and Mae Nam stations could be used by the Finance Ministry's Treasury Department to ease some of the SRT's debt, she said.

Speaking about progress on the 10 electric rail routes, Ms Soithip said the Red Line electric train, which will stretch from Bang Sue in Bangkok to Rangsit in Pathum Thani, is now under construction, and that bidding for its electrical and mechanical systems will be held today.

Meanwhile, engineering teams have managed to recover six derailed carriages of the Eastern & Oriental Express, a luxury train service connecting Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

The train jumped the tracks in Ratchaburi’s Ban Pong district on Sunday morning as it headed for the River Kwai Bridge in Kanchanaburi province. Two women were injured in the accident.

The carriages were taken to Bangkok's Bang Sue railway station.

The tracks between Sa Kosi Narai and Luk Kae, where the train derailed, were being repaired and were scheduled to reopen about 8pm last night.

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