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Plans for a new 7.4 billion dollar high-speed rail link from Bangkok to Pattaya got the thumbs-up Thursday (October 24). The approval comes after months of acrimonious negotiations.
The government said it had signed an agreement on Thursday to begin construction with a consortium led by conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) and including China Railway Construction Corporation.
Japanese banks have also agreed to provide some financing for the link, which will span 220 kilometers and is scheduled to open in 2023. The government approved 119 billion baht for the investment, while the private sector will invest 117 billion baht.
After the 50-year project period, all assets will be transferred to the government.
Other terms of the agreement were not made public.
CP Group and 12 other companies were chosen for the project by Thailand’s former military government. They have been in negotiations with state agencies since the new government came to power in March’s elections and there have been disputes about land transfers and the distribution of risks.
In early October, the deputy prime minister, whose party is in charge of the transport portfolio, set a deadline for signing the agreement, threatening to to blacklist the CP consortium if they failed to sign, according to Reuters.
CP’s chairman, Thailand’s richest man, criticized the government’s approach in a dispute over the delay in signing the agreement, but as the deadline drew near, CP announced it would sign the agreement a day early on Oct 24.
The project will link Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports and Pattaya’s U-Tapao airport. The train will travel at up to 250 kilometers per hour, making travel to Pattaya more accessible and faster, according to the project’s website.
According to the deputy PM, “This high-speed rail link project will have investments and employment with a total value of more than 200 billion baht, and will attract more investment to Thailand.”
This article first appeared on thethaiger.com
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