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Bidding on construction of the Bangkok-Rayong high-speed train is expected to take place this year as part of efforts to jump-start the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), the government's flagship project for Thailand 4.0.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the terms of reference for the project will be settled by mid-year, with bidding for the construction contract to proceed soon after.
Speaking at a meeting on EEC management policy, Mr Somkid said EEC-related committees are due to report the progress of the EEC and propose the plan to upgrade the U-Tapao airport to be a special economic zone to support Thailand's plan to be the regional aviation hub.
He said the U-Tapao airport project and other infrastructure projects are due to be reported to the EEC Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on April 5.
Major projects to be discussed at the meeting include high-speed trains and double-track rail, he said.
"We are trying to push ahead with the plan to build the EEC as soon as we can," Mr Somkid said.
"The plan is due to be done with speed and accuracy since it has captured the attention of foreign investors."
However, the construction of the high-speed train from Bangkok to Rayong province is about to face a glitch since the Transportation Ministry is about to reconsider the plan before submitting it for approval.
Transport Minister Arkom Termpitaya- paisit said the ministry is about to re-consider the plan to construct the 193.5-kilometre high-speed train from Bangkok to Rayong province, which will connect Suvarnabhumi airport to U-tapao airport and the special economic zone in Rayong province.
"We need to reconsider the project as it may create some redundancy on the existing Airport Rail Link that we necessitates rethinking the size of the railtrack and whether it would be compatible for both the Airport Rail Link and the high-speed train. There could also be a possible need to connect the two rail routes to each other," said Mr Arkom.
He added the Transportation Ministry will finalise the problem as quickly as it can in order to avoid any delays in the EEC project development plan.
The EEC is intended to be a special location to accommodate the investment in 10 targeted industries, promoted as clusters by the government.
The 10 industries are next-generation cars; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemicals; digital; and medical services.
The location covers a combined 30,000 rai of plots in three provinces: Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao.
"All the projects are due to be approved by the prime minister in April. The investment budget has already been allocated for the projects, due to be done through the PPP," he said, referring to the Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
He said the plan to develop the high-speed train and the double-track rail aim at connecting Suvarnabhumi airport, Don Mueang Airport and U-tapao airport.
For the project to develop the U-tapao airport into a regional aviation hub, the government has assigned the Royal Thai Navy to draft out a master plan, while the Industry Ministry will play a supporting role in encouraging foreign investors to invest in aviation-related and aviation parts producers in the EEC.
Furthermore, the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Tourism Industry of Thailand will seek ways to use the EEC transportation infrastructure to become major tools to promote tourism.
Mr Somkid said the EEC managing committee will also introduce a plan to promote electric vehicle investment for cabinet approval by the end of March.
This article first appeared on www.bangkokpost.com
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