By The Nation
The Transport Ministry, however, has assured the bid-winning consortium led by Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group that the necessary land will be handed over by January or February next year as planned.
Chaiwat Thongkamkoon, Transport Ministry’s permanent secretary, said overall the high-speed rail project has been proceeding as planned after the Bt224-billion contract was signed in October last year.
The ministry has been urging the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), the Department of Highways and the Department of Rural Roads to speed up the removal of public utility structures to make way for the railway, Chaiwat said after chairing a meeting to discuss the process of land handover.
According to the latest land survey, the SRT needs to expropriate 885 rai (141.6 hectares) instead of the previously estimated 857 rai. Under this new estimation, 360 buildings will have to be removed instead of 334 initially targeted, though the clearing of trees remains at 517 parcels of land.
Apart from having to deal with illegal squatters, SRT also needs to tear down 197 of the 782 buildings on its land between Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports. Between Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports, there are 570 buildings or homes located on SRT land and 301 need to be torn down.
He added that most of these buildings belong to members of nearby communities, so SRT needs to find land for their relocation.
The contract for the 220km high-speed rail requires that SRT handover the land for the Lat Krabang to U-Tapao section within one year and three months after the signing of the contract and land for the Don Mueang to Phya Thai section within two years and three months.
SRT will also hand CP the right to run the Airport Rail Link from October 2021. The future of staff at the Airport Rail Link will depend on the agreement SRT and CP make, Chaiwat said.
Meanwhile, an informed source at the SRT conceded that the clearance of electricity poles and tap water facilities to make way for the construction sites is behind the schedule by a month or two, largely due to the impact of Covid-19. The Transport Ministry has earmarked Bt335 million for the clearing of utilities.
Separately, SRT has filed lawsuits against illegal occupants of its land, while CP has started surveying the construction sites, officials said.