Enthusiasm for the High-speed Rail Project Dampened

The high-speed train project’s first stage, to link up three major airports, is still mired in land expropriation and eviction problems concerning 20% of the land required for construction despite it being expected to begin operation in five years.

If the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) fails to hand over this part of land, approximately 2,000 rai, to the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP)-led consortium contracted to construct the project, in time, it may face another episode of having to pay hefty financial compensation to a contractor, said former finance minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala.

He was referring to the Supreme Administrative Court’s order on April 22 for the SRT to pay Hopewell (Thailand) 12 billion baht plus interest, 37 billion in total, within 180 days in compensation for losses incurred by Hopewell after Thai authorities terminated a controversial project two decades ago.

Out of the 10,000 rai required for the construction of the so-called Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) rail project, the SRT can hand over only 8,000 rai to the CP-led consortium at the moment, said deputy SRT governor Sujit Chou-sirikool.

As for the rest of the land, a total of 12 royal decrees are required to enforce expropriation on 850 rai, said Mr Sujit.

The rest of the land is being encroached on and the SRT admitted that it might have to seek help from other agencies if necessary.

There are more than 3,000 houses that need to be demolished to make way for construction, said a Transport Ministry source, adding that this includes both legally-leased and illegal, encroaching houses.

Since this land will have to be handed over to the contractor within two years, a team has been set up to focus on resolving these issues, said Mr Sujit.

Despite a high level of anticipation by the Royal Coast community clarification of the high speed train project timing linking Bangkok and Hua Hin has been provided by the State Railways of Thailand (SRT) meaning that commencement, let alone completion, remains a distant reality.

The statement says that an 18 month planning process is required before any construction may proceed.