Cabinet nod for Bangkok rail projects, mulls more investment


The Cabinet approved the construction of two monorail projects for Bangkok – the Pink Line and the Yellow Line – last week with a combined investment of about $3 billion under the Public-Private Partnership fast track mechanism with international bidding expected to start in June.

The projects are the latest to be approved under the government’s massive infrastructure construction and upgrade program.The construction is expected to take three years, with the two rail lines completed by the end of 2019, according to Transport Minister Arkhom Tempittayapaisith.

The Thai government plans to invest 1.8 trillion baht, or roughly $51 billion in 20 infrastructure projects through 2022, many of them road and rail lines to increase connectivity and logistics between Thailand and the region. The infrastructure investment program is also intended as an economic stimulus.

A Cabinet source told The Nation newspaper last week, however, that the government is considering doubling the State’s infrastructure investment budget to 3.6 trillion Baht, or $102 billion dollars.  The source told the newspaper that the National Economic and Social Development Board, the national economic planning agency, was reviewing the government’s investment plan and would make recommendations within a few months, including about possibly increasing the investments.

Increasing the investment would reduce the need for other types of stimulus measures. Thailand’s economy is expected to grow at a rate of about 3 percent this year, lower than some neighbors, but in line with Malaysia and Singapore. All have been suffering to some degree by lower demand for exports in a weak world economy and the slowdown in China, which sources many products and raw materials from Thailand and Southeast Asia.

An economist with HSBC bank told The Nation that his institution agrees with the idea of doubling the investment; calling it a “welcome move” and hoping it will come to pass.

The two Bangkok rail projects approved last week will require the government to invest in land purchases, while the private sector would be responsible for civil engineering work, signals and the rolling stock systems, as well as operations and maintenance.

The 18-mile Pink Line will run from Khae Rai to Min Buri with 30 stations. The project’s value is estimated at around $1.5 billion.

The 18.6-mile Yellow Line will link Lat Phrao with Samrong, with 23 stations. The investment is estimated at about $1.47 billion.

Arkhom said the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) would set up a committee to invite private companies to participate in these projects.

“We expect the international bids for the two monorail projects to commence three months from now,” said Arkhom. Private firms that win the bidding would be awarded 30-year term operating licenses.