Dozens of firms express interest in building airport rail link

At least 31 local and foreign companies have expressed solid interest in building a rail system linking the three international airports in Bangkok with the Eastern Economic Corridor, the State Railway of Thailand said last week, underscoring the investment appeal of Thailand and its advanced development zone.

All 31 firms purchased bidding documents from the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) at the cost of $30,000 each, signaling their seriousness about competing to build the rail system. Companies from South Korea, France, China, Italy, Japan and Malaysia were among those securing bidding documents. Local Thai conglomerates PTT, the partially privatized state energy firm, and Charoen Pokphand, the agro-industrial empire, are also vying for the project.

The rail system will connect Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok with U-Tapao International Airport, 90 miles southeast of the capital in Rayong province. Rayong is one of three provinces that comprise the Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC, where facilities for higher-technology industries and smart cities are being constructed. The zone is the showcase and driver of Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to promote innovation, research and development, creativity, and green industries as pillars of the Thai economy.

A diverse group of companies from Alibaba of China to Airbus of the European Union have made commitments to invest and build facilities in the EEC. Japanese and Singaporean firms represent the largest groups of investors so far. In February of this year, the government passed the Eastern Economic Corridor Act, which spells out investment incentives and privileges, providing the clarity sought by many overseas companies before making commitments to invest.

The rail line that the 31 companies intend to bid on will contribute to joining the capital and the corridor in a fast transportation web. A key attraction of the EEC is the massive public and private investment in infrastructure to support seamless connections between the corridor, the region, and the world beyond.

That infrastructure includes high-speed rail lines, expanded and upgraded deep sea-ports, new and widened roads and highways, and the renovation and expansion of U-Tapao to a high-capacity international airport, cargo center and an aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul hub in the Asia-Pacific region. All of those features are increasing the EEC’s appeal to firms seeking a strategic location to base their facilities.