Thai bidder for $7bn railway told to sign deal in two weeks or face blacklisting

The government of Thailand has given the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) a deadline of 15 October to sign a deal for a $7.4bn high-speed rail line between the country’s main airports in the strategic Eastern Corridor between Bangkok and Pattaya.  

The government had hoped that CP would sign an investment deal by April, however this has been held up by talks with the State Railway of Thailand over terms and conditions, including investment and land ownership.

Reuters reports that Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced the deadline yesterday (3 October), adding that if they failed to meet it, they would be blacklisted by the government. 

A consortium of 13 companies led by CP was granted sole negotiating rights in November last year, and was awarded the public-private partnership in May 2019 after it put in a bid that was nearly $2bn lower than that offered by a rival consortium led by mass transit operator BTS Group, which runs Bangkok’s Skytrain and metro systems.

Charnvirakul said other companies in the consortium, including Bangkok Metro Expressway, Italian Thai Development and China Railway Construction could also be affected.

The Eastern Corridor high-speed line will connect Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to others at Don Muang and U-Tapao.

"I think there will not be a problem in signing," acting governor of State Rail of Thailand, Worawut Mala, told Reuters. He added that the land-transfer concerns centred on the presence of infrastructure owned by other government agencies, but that these had been resolved.

CP Group is owned by Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont. Its areas of operations include agriculture, telecoms and insurance.

Image: Suvarnabhumi International Airport (Gronico/Public domain)

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