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Suvarnabhumi » State Railway given one month to finish Airport Rail Link plan

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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The state railway has been given one more month to complete its plan for the operation of the Bangkok Airport Rail Link so it can begin running on schedule. Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um said the railway linking Suvarnabhumi airport and Makkasan in the inner city was due to open late next year.

However, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) still did not have a concrete plan for its operation or for establishing the entity to run the system.

Setting up the operating body and training staff to run the service would all take time, and there was not much time remaining, he said.

The SRT must complete the plan within a month and he would forward it to the cabinet for approval right away.

The state railway has talked about setting up a subsidiary to run the Bangkok Airport Rail Link.

It says that as a state enterprise, the SRT is not flexible enough for the task. The subsidiary may also operate other electric railways being built from Bang Sue to Rangsit and Bang Sue to Taling Chan.

In the same one month time frame, Mr Sansern also wants the SRT to come up with a plan to expand the Bangkok Airport Rail Link to the Bang Sue railway station, which will be developed as a new railway terminus for Bangkok in the future.

The SRT must plan a new railway to link Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.

Mr Sansern said the 29 billion baht, 28km Airport Rail Link project was riddled with unresolved problems. For example, the official construction period affected the financing.

The original contract gave the consortium of Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction 990 days to complete building the railway. The deadline is, Nov 5, 2007, less than two weeks away.

Because the SRT was too slow handing the land for the route over to the contractor, and because of flooding, the deadline was missed, he said.

The SRT had yet to fix an exact extension date for the contract, he said. The official construction time was important because the financing was timed to the completion of construction. Cost of construction to Nov 5 was estimated at 19 billion baht, with additional financing of about 9.9 billion baht needed for the rest of the job.

The SRT must also reach an agreement with Airports of Thailand (AOT), which had completed the terminal section of the rail link. The 3.8 billon baht section was inside Suvarnabhumi airport and consisted of an underground tunnel and a station.

If the SRT could not afford to pay Airports of Thailand (AOT) the construction price, it might be able to rent it, Mr Sansern said.

The Assets Scrutiny Committee was still investigating why the SRT management agreed to pay the lending fee for the airport link‘s financing, instead of the contractor.

Despite these problems, Mr Sansern said the Transport Ministry would take action to ensure the continuation of the project’s construction because Suvarnabhumi airport needed the new railway.

The Airport Rail Link will feature two systems running electric trains. One is an express train which will stop at only a few stations between the inner city and Suvarnabhumi airport. The other is a commuter train stopping at every station. (BkkPost)

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