Government says U-Tapao will be cornerstone of EEC

The government will prioritize the development of U-Tapao airport as the cornerstone of the Eastern Economic Corridor, the new development zone east of Bangkok that will showcase Thailand’s advancing digital economy, along with a high-speed railway linking the area to Bangkok, the deputy prime minister in charge of the economy said last week.

The two projects are among five major infrastructure developments planned by the government for the three-province zone that policymakers consider essential for the future of the nation in terms of its economy, competitiveness and development. Aside from serving as a home to advanced industries, the Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC, will also contain model, green communities for a better and more sustainable standard of living.

Aerospace and aviation are among the advanced industries that will be headquartered in the EEC. Therefore, the development of U-Tapao, an airport once used by the United States military, has been prioritized, both for its role in spurring the growth of aerospace and aviation in Thailand and for the major part it will play in linking the corridor with global markets through transport and logistics.

THAI Airways International has announced its intention to build the region’s finest aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at U-Tapao, and last week European aircraft maker Airbus signed an agreement to invest in the new facility.

“The government will accelerate the joint aircraft-repair center between Thai Airways International and Airbus and arrange regulations for public-private partnerships to shorten the EEC implementation period to three months,” said Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who oversees the economic ministries.

Somkid said that when renovations and upgrades are completed, U-Tapao will be as large as Suvarnabhumi International Airport, the main international gateway in the Kingdom located on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC, said terms of reference for the Bangkok-Rayong high-speed-rail project would be released before midyear, and he expects bidding on the project before the end of the year.

State Railways of Thailand and the Transport Ministry will complete their study of high-speed rail lines that would seamlessly link the three airports: U-Tapao, Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang in Bangkok.

“The high-speed train will take no more than 45 minutes for a trip from Bangkok to U-Tapao airport, which will help push it towards becoming the aviation hub in the Eastern region as soon as possible,” Kanit said.

The three other projects are port development, investment in targeted industries and development of a new city.

Transport Minister Uttama Savanayana said the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society would build a digital park on a 245-acre site in the corridor. The park will provide a nexus for the country’s digital industries, develop software and incubate start-ups.

“Leading software and hardware developers like Facebook will be lured to set up firms, while the incubation center for digital start-ups will be upgraded to cope with the growing Thai digital industry,” he said.