“We are interested in operating cargo trains for the 740-kilometre Nong Khai-Laem Chabang route,” Surapong Laoha-Unya, chief executive officer of the listed company, said in an exclusive interview with the Nation Group recently.
BTSC – a mass-transit business within the BTS Group – sees this route as offering high income potential and worthy of investment under the company’s expansion programme.
The Nong Khai-Laem Chabang route, which is currently a single-track railway with a metre-wide gauge, is being improved and upgraded to a double-track railway.
Some parts of the route now feature the double track, but only for a short distance.
“The logistics and transportation sector, especially for goods and products, in our country will be disruptive – resulting in lower shipping costs – if the rail system has a bigger stake of the total length of the transport network than just 2 per cent currently,” the CEO said.
If the government had a policy to open up rail operations for transporting goods and products on this route to the private sector, bidding could commence by the end of this year, with operations commencing within the next three years, he added.
As for the company’s strong foothold in the mass-transit rail network in Bangkok and surrounding areas, BTSC currently operates about 36.3km of rail track, compared to 20km of MRT underground trains operated by Bangkok Expressway and Metro, and the 28.5km Airport Rail Link run by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT).
For the metro rail network, Surapong said his company was interested in several upcoming lines, some of which had nearly completed construction, while others were at the initial study and design stage.
These include the Green Line extensions, the Pink Line and Yellow Line monorail routes, and LRT (light-rail transit) lines.
The Green Line extensions stretch the Skyrain to the north, from Bang Sue to Kukot at a total length of 18.4km – and to the south, from Bearing to Samut Prakan, at a length of 12.8km.
The extension for the Bearing-Samut Prakan route is 70 per cent complete in terms of civil engineering construction, while the Bang Sue-Kukot route is just being kick-started.
The chief executive said BTSC was also interested in the 7km Green Line extension from Bang Wa station in the west of Bangkok to Taling Chan.
The project is undergoing a feasibility study and is also subject to an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, which is expected to be completed in the next few months.
BTSC is also interested in the Yellow and Pink Line monorail projects, which have received the green light for full investment by the private sector and are set to open for bidding for operating licences in August or September, he said.
Other metro lines of potential interest are the LRT railway from Bang Na to Suvarnabhumi Airport, covering a distance of 15km; and the Grey Line, which will link Watcharapol to Rama III and Thong Lo, and Prakanong to Rama III.
“These two lines could be strategically connected with the current BTS Skytrain routes that we are operating,” Surapong said.
Meanwhile, the Airport Rail Link extension for the Phayathai-Bang Sue route is also of interest to the company, with BTSC waiting to hear a clear government policy statement as to whether it would be open for the private operator to operate, or would continue to be run by the SRT.
“If we include the Yellow Line and the Pink Line, there will be a total of incoming metro lines of about 100km in length … This is sizeable for the operating sector,” the CEO said, adding that BTSC was currently fine-tuning its investment plan for train carriages.
The company will possibly place an order for all 172 train carriages it needs at one time, depending on the government’s policy for operating the metro rail network.
As currently planned, BTSC requires seven trains of four carriages of each for the Green Line BTS Skytrain, 15 trains for the Green Line Bearing-Samut Prakan extension, and 21 trains for the |Green Line Bang Sue-Kukot extension.
BTS Skytrain now carries an average of 700,000 riders per day during weekdays, resulting in 7-per-cent revenue growth for the nine-month period ending December 2015, higher than its 5-per-cent target, year on year, he said.