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A trade union has demanded a delay in a bill to establish a rail track transport department, claiming the proposal lacks public input and supports privatisation of rail transport that could lead to job losses and fare increases.
The Federation of Railway Workers Union said it agrees with the bill in principle but opposes several sections, the most critical of which seeks private sector investment in rail track transport.
It would invite privatisation leading to higher train fares, said Suvich Sumanont, president of the Federation of Railway Workers Union.
He said the union was concerned with the bill's proposal to set up a rail track transport policy commission. Problems could occur in keeping track of the commission which would likely be under-represented by the consumer protection office and railway workers.
Mr Suvich said the bill runs counter to Section 77 of the constitution as no public hearing was conducted on its contents.
The union said the bill must be put on hold for a review. It plans to submit its demands to the Transport Ministry, Government House and the Office of the Council of State today.
The federation is made up of some present and former employees of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) and the electric train companies as well as their family members.
The bill was also a subject of debate at a discussion on rail reform in Bangkok on Sunday.
The bill, approved by the cabinet on Dec 27 last year, seeks to introduce three companies to manage the railway assets, train services and maintenance by 2024.
The businesses, functioning independently of each other, would be a form of privatisation of the SRT, a state enterprise.
The profits-driven companies would be run by their own boards prone to meddling by political parties dominating the government of the day, which may appoint their own people to the boards, the discussion was told.
Chitpol Pormdontree, president of the Airport Rail Link Workers Union, also voiced disagreement with carving out the SRT units and opening the three companies.
He said train services would suffer as major policy decisions would need to go back and forth between the board and the management, causing delays in policy implementation.
Mr Chitpol said the government must work to increase the professional capability of the rail employees to prepare them for future high-speed train and dual-track rail projects.
The state enterprises have the manpower to take on the jobs without the need to open private firms to operate key rail units, he said.
This article first appeared on www.bangkokpost.com
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