Airport rail ToR to lure foreigners

The private sector has proposed terms of reference (ToR) that permit foreign investors to hold more than a 50% share in the 224.54-billion-baht high-speed railway linking the three main airports in a bid to boost management efficiency. The three airports are Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao.

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Wed acknowledged the progress of a ToR that allows a 51% foreign holding stake.

The terms are expected to be completed by this month, said a Government House source. Bidding is likely to begin in May.

A high-speed train exhibition in Bangkok. The government hopes that more attractive terms, including the prospect of more than 50% ownership, will persuade foreign investors to bid for the high-speed railway linking three central airports. CHANAT KATANYU


Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, said the bidding process should be international and should strike a balance between foreign investors and benefits to the country.

Mr Kanit said the committee noted that while many infrastructure projects have opened for international bids, few foreign investors have joined, possibly because of unattractive ToR.

The high-speed railway linking the three airports will be developed under a public-private partnership scheme, with the government paying 3.57 billion baht for land appropriation and 108.33 billion baht over 10 years after the trains commence their operations.

The build-operate-transfer project is valued at 224.54 billion baht and comes with a 50-year concession.

“Foreign investors have told us they would like to hold more than half of the shares because they need to facilitate the management process,” Mr Kanit said.

He said the subcommittee to screen the bidders will improve the ToR framework and has its own authority to consider specific details.

The subcommittee is chaired by Anon Luangboriboon, acting governor of the State Railway of Thailand, with other committee members from the Budget Bureau, the Office of the Attorney-General, the State Enterprise Policy Office and the Transport Ministry.

Mr Kanit said the bidding process is expected to begin in May and will take four months for private companies to submit their proposals and commence the screening process.

The government expects to announce the winner to construct the high-speed railway in November, he said.

The cabinet on March 28 approved the high-speed railway linking the three main airports and a 3.5-billion-baht budget to finance land appropriation.

The railway involves extending Bangkok’s Airport Rail Link, which runs to Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province, to connect to Don Mueang airport in northern Bangkok and U-tapao in Rayong province.

The entire route will be about 220 kilometres long and reach a maximum speed of 250km per hour.

The route comprises nine high-speed stations: Don Mueang, Bang Sue, Makkasan, Suvarnabhumi, Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, Sri Racha, Pattaya and U-tapao.

Separately, Gen Prayut has ordered the Board of Investment (BoI) to create a package of investment privileges for a smart city to serve EEC development.

The BoI is required to propose the smart city promotional package at a BoI meeting on May 9, Mr Kanit said.

“A smart city for the EEC should have a clear direction of development, including appropriate locations, type of investment, management of energy, environment, transport and lodging issues, as well as related concerns about the law and local provincial administrations,” he said.

The smart city should be developed to serve both foreigners and Thais working in the EEC, Mr Kanit said.

He said Gen Prayut also ordered a clear direction on developing existing towns and border cities that are expected to become major cities in the future.