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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday urged transport officials to settle their dispute with the Chinese contractor so that work on the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed railway can progress.
Gen Prayut's intervention came after he discussed the 230-billion-baht joint rail project with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Bangkok on Monday.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said Gen Prayut had instructed him and other transport officials to settle the disagreement, which concerns the warranty for China-supplied materials, "as soon as possible".
The prime minister ordered officials to arrange a meeting of the Thai-Chinese Joint Committee (JC) to seek solutions to disagreement over the so-called Contract 2.3.
Contract 2.3 covers the cost of purchasing tracks, an electricity system, machinery, procurement of train carriages, and training.
The two sides have made slow progress in sealing the contract.
Chaiwat Thongkamkoon, Transport Ministry permanent secretary, said both sides had spent the past 12 months discussing the warranty period.
Beijing has insisted on a lump-sum valuation for the equipment it will provide. But it has failed to provide a clear price breakdown for each piece of equipment covered by the warranty. This has prompted reluctance to seal the contract among Thai officials, since Thai procurement law calls for a price breakdown of each and every item purchased.
The Chinese contractor is also offering just one year's warranty on the high-speed train system, while Thai representatives are insisting on the international standard of two years.
Gen Prayut wants transport officials to bring all their concerns to the negotiating table at the next JC meeting, said Mr Saksayam.
"Premier Li stressed that China also wants to see Thailand's first high-speed railway proceed successfully," said Mr Saksayam, quoting Gen Prayut.
Along with the warranty issue, the 28th JC meeting will decide which currency -- US dollars or Thai baht -- will be used to pay for the project.
The total project value under Contract 2.3 has risen from 38 to 50 billion baht.
In a separate development, the Transport Ministry will seek cabinet approval for two studies on two new major roads.
The first features a feasibility study for a new road to link Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi and Suphan Buri, forming a Western Economic Corridor to boost the economy of the western provinces, Mr Saksayam said.
This article first appeared on www.bangkokpost.com
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