Foreign investors ask for more clarity on the high-speed rail project following comments from the SRT

Foreign investors are calling for the incoming economic team to provide clarity over the country’s long-term projects amid rising uncertainties as the nationwide lockdown continues, experts said.

Their comments came after the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) said last Tuesday that the extension of the high-speed rail link for Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports, valued at 101 billion baht, may not be worth it. 

The SRT, citing representatives of the chamber of commerce, said their main concern is that demand for the route extension will be low as they believe it will only be high during the tourist season. 

Another major concern is the issue of land encroachment as the second phase of the 190 kilometers high-speed train project will pass through eleven districts of Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat. 

The SRT said the study for phase two will be done by August.

The Ministry of Transport also said that they will finish handing over land to the CP-led consortium, who won the bid to build the first phase of the high-speed rail link between the three airports by February 2021.  

Stanley Kang, the chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT), told Thai Enquirer on Thursday that the new economic team, once settled, should immediately provide clarity on the continuity of their mega projects to build up foreign confidence. 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said last week that his new cabinet, including a new economic team, will be formed by August. 

“The government will have to take care of its people and SMEs first… but there is also a need to follow up on infrastructure investments for the long-term,” he said.

Stanley said that since most of these projects are under the public-private partnership model, the government must provide more clarity on its plans for these projects.  

“Since most of them are PPP projects, the government should tell us what is going on,” he said.  

Olivier Loison, Alstom’s managing director of China and East Asia, told Thai Enquirer that many countries, including Thailand, have reduced the frequency of urban rail services to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus inside the cabins. 

However, trains and rail systems will continue to provide essential services for commuters.

Alstom is a French multinational company operating in rail transport markets which have just announced two new metro projects in Taipei and Dubai, valued at 424 million euros and 2.6 billion euros respectively, in July.

“Due to the impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain, rail freight has become even more relevant to keeping economies running,” he said. 

Olivier added that there are measures that could be used to ensure the safety of passengers and minimize the impact of the pandemic on society at large which means that trains could keep on running despite the outbreak.

Stanley said the SRT should look to the long-term future for real market demand instead of looking at the current lack of short-term demand during the pandemic period. 

“The studies on these projects have been done for a long time and if they really want to add new information they will need to have enough support on that before releasing the new study,” he added. 

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