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U-tapao, high-speed rail top list

Mar 13. 2017
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By THE NATION

THE GOVERNMENT will move first with two transport projects – the upgrade of U-tapao International Airport and the construction of a high-speed railway – out of the five mega-projects under the Eastern Economic Corridor master plan.

The three other projects are port development, investment in targeted industries and development of a new city. The rail module includes a double-track railway.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said after the meeting yesterday of the EEC steering committee to follow up on the five projects that the action plan would be expedited for completion in three months.

U-tapao will be the cornerstone of the drive towards establishing an aviation hub in the Eastern region with 6,500 rai (1,040 hectares) of land and the first special economic zone in the EEC. 

It is expected to play a complementary role to the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang international gateways in Bangkok.

The terms of reference for the extension of U-tapao’s second runway are expected to be finalised by the middle of this year with the private sector submitting bids late this year.

Five main activities will also be pushed. Passenger terminals will be expanded to accommodate 15 million passengers in five years, 30 million in 10 years and 60 million on 15 years. There will be air-freight services including warehousing of high-tech products, an aircraft-repair facility, and a training centre for aviation personnel.

“The government will accelerate a joint aircraft-repair centre between Thai Airways International and Airbus and arrange regulations for public-private partnerships to shorten the EEC implementation period to three months,” Somkid said.

The aviation hub’s development will be delegated to the Navy, which owns the area, while the Industry and Tourism ministries will be drawn in for joint programmes.

U-tapao will be as large as Suvarnabhumi Airport, which could attract more tourists.

Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC, said the Bangkok-Rayong high-speed-rail project had passed the Environment Impact Assessment and its terms of reference would be released before midyear on expectation for the opening of bidding this year.

The State Railway of Thailand and the Transport Ministry will complete their study of high-speed railways that seamlessly link the three airports and will report to the committee on the policy for the EEC development chaired by the prime minister on April 5. 

“The high-speed train will take no more than 45 minutes for a trip from Bangkok to U-tapao airport, which will help push it towards becoming the aviation hub in |the Eastern region as soon as |possible,” Kanit said. 

Transport Minister Uttama Savanayana said a digital park would be established on a 621-rai site in the EEC by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. The aim of the park will be to build the country’s digital industry, develop software and incubate start-ups. 

“This project will be funded with investment of Bt68 billion. Of that, 80 per cent will be financed by the government and 20 per cent by the private sector,” he said.

“Leading software and hardware developers like Facebook will be lured to set up firms, while the incubation centre for digital start-ups will be upgraded to cope with the growing Thai digital industry,” he said.

A centre for EEC innovation is also in the pipeline to attract foreigners to establish their research and development centres for government-targeted industries in Chon Buri’s Sri Racha district.

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