Anticipation Builds for EEC High-Speed Rail as BAFS Requests Government Support

Anticipation Builds for EEC High-Speed Rail

On May 22, 2024, Asia Era One is poised to submit critical documents for an investment promotion certificate, marking a significant step forward for the high-speed rail project connecting three major airports: Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, and U-Tapao. This project, worth 224,544 million baht, has experienced multiple delays since the initial joint venture agreement between the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) and Asia Era One in October 2021, nearly four years ago. These delays have had a cascading effect on other significant projects at U-Tapao Airport.


Delays Impacting U-Tapao Projects

Delays Impacting U-Tapao Projects

The high-speed rail project’s delays have forced several ongoing projects at U-Tapao Airport to adjust their timelines. One such project is the construction of a high-pressure oil pipeline system, a joint venture between Bangkok Aviation Fuel Services Public Company Limited (BAFS) and PTT Oil and Retail Business Public Company Limited (OR). The inability to proceed with the oil pipeline construction has raised concerns about the future of the entire development.

ML Natthasit Diskul, President of BAFS, reported that while the construction of the oil tank has been completed and the office building is nearing completion, the high-pressure oil pipeline system cannot construct until U-Tapao International Aviation (UTA) provides the necessary groundwork. UTA, the entity responsible for the development of U-Tapao Airport and Aviation City, must first finalize its parking lot model before BAFS can proceed with laying the pipeline.


Government Support Crucial for Progress

Government Support Crucial for Progress

ML Natthasit has emphasized the need for government intervention to extend the contract period and provide loan guarantees. He argued that the delays are not due to BAFS's actions, and therefore, the government should step in to support the project’s timely completion. ML Natthasit highlighted that entrepreneurs in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) are committed to meeting the contract conditions but require governmental assistance to navigate these unforeseen delays.


Broader Implications for U-Tapao Airport and Aviation City

Broader Implications for U-Tapao Airport and Aviation City

The delay in the high-speed rail project has wider implications for the development of U-Tapao Airport and Aviation City. The UTA, tasked with developing and managing U-Tapao Airport, has seen its plans delayed due to the pandemic and subsequent adjustments to the master plan. The high-speed rail project is integral to U-Tapao’s development, enhancing connectivity and supporting the airport's role as a major commercial international hub.

Mr. Weerawat Panthawangkun, CEO of UTA, acknowledged that construction cannot begin until there is clarity on the high-speed rail project. He expects that the government will resolve the ongoing negotiations with the contracting parties by the third quarter of this year, allowing the Notice to Proceed (NTP) to be issued by the end of 2024. This NTP is essential for UTA to start its development activities.


High-Speed Rail Project Developments

High-Speed Rail Project Developments

The high-speed rail project, led by Asia Era One, is at a critical juncture with only 12 days remaining to submit additional documents to the Board of Investment (BOI) for an investment promotion certificate. This certificate is crucial for the SRT to issue an NTP, which would officially kick-start the construction phase. Asia Era One, a joint venture primarily held by Charoen Pokphand Holding Company Limited, has faced delays and is negotiating to amend the joint venture contract with the government.


Challenges and Future Prospects

Challenges and Future Prospects

Despite these setbacks, BAFS remains optimistic about the future of U-Tapao Airport and Aviation City. The development plan envisions not just an airport but also an exhibition center, a sports stadium, a race track, and access to a cruise port, which will significantly enhance the region's economic prospects. However, the success of these ambitious plans hinges on the completion of the high-speed rail project.

ML Natthasit suggested that if the current high-speed rail project faces further obstacles, the government might consider scaling down to a moderate-speed train to reduce costs. This alternative could still provide enhanced connectivity while making the project more financially viable.


A Pivotal Year Ahead

Conclusion: A Pivotal Year Ahead

The high-speed rail project connecting Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, and U-Tapao airports is a cornerstone development for Thailand’s infrastructure. While delays have impacted related projects, including those at U-Tapao Airport, the upcoming submission of documents by Asia Era One on May 22 signifies a critical step forward. BAFS's appeal for government assistance underscores the need for strategic support to overcome these delays and ensure the successful completion of EEC projects.

The coming months will be crucial in determining the future of these significant infrastructure developments. The government’s response to these challenges will not only affect the high-speed rail project but also the broader economic prospects of the Eastern Economic Corridor. With the right support and timely interventions, these projects have the potential to transform the region, fostering economic growth and enhancing Thailand's connectivity on a global scale.


Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

1. High-Speed Rail Project Delays

The project connecting Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, and U-Tapao airports has been delayed since October 2021, affecting other developments at U-Tapao Airport.

2. BAFS Adjustments

BAFS has had to adjust its plans for the high-pressure oil pipeline system, awaiting UTA’s finalization of development plans.

3. Government Support

BAFS is requesting the government to extend the contract period and provide loan guarantees to mitigate the impacts of the delays.

4. UTA Development Delays

The development of U-Tapao Airport and Aviation City delayed due to the pandemic and the pending high-speed rail project.

5. Critical Deadlines

Asia Era One has until May 22 to submit documents for an investment promotion certificate, crucial for the project’s progress.

6. Future Prospects

Despite the delays, there is optimism about U-Tapao Airport's future, with suggestions to consider scaling down the high-speed rail project to a moderate-speed alternative if necessary.


This year will be pivotal for the high-speed rail project and the broader EEC developments, with significant implications for Thailand's infrastructure and economic growth.


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