By The Nation
The complex disputes, which cover 17 cases and debts of over Bt110 billion, centre on toll rates and also Exat’s alleged violation of a non-competition contract by building transport infrastructure close to existing routes operated by BEM.
The committee has invited the Exat chairman and acting governor to provide more details on the dispute when it meets on July 30. A day later, the committee will hear further evidence from related agencies and Exat union acting vice president Prasong Srisuksai.
“The case is not resolved yet because we need more evidence,” commented Yuttapong, citing the sheer number of separate disputes to consider.
In the most prominent case, Exat was last September ordered by the Supreme Administrative Court to pay Bt4.3 billion in compensation to BEM for violating a non-competition contract concerning the Udon Ratthaya Expressway, which connects Bang Pa-in with Pak Kret.
“Exat complained that paying the compensation might affect its financial performance. The committee would like Exat to provide more information [to back this complaint],” Yuttapong said.
The committee also expressed concern over potential suffering of Bangkok transport users if the dispute cannot be resolved soon. Some expressway commissions will end in March 1, 2020, which might impact the expressway authority. Exat will seek to extend the contract with BEM for another 10 years but has vowed that the public will not be affected even if the deal does not go through.
Committee member Chris Potaranun revealed that Exat had been asked for information on the deal to extend BEM’s contract for three expressways – including the Bang Pa-in-Pak Kret toll road – in exchange for waiving debt from 14 cases totalling Bt58 billion.
“According to court rulings, Exat has only lost one case and been ordered to pay Bt4.3 billion while the other cases are still in court. We have to consider carefully if we are going to continue with these cases.”
The Transport Ministry reports that the disputes between Exat and BEM are worth a total Bt137 billion, with filed disputes accounting for Bt66 billion, related disputes, Bt74 billion, and a dispute filed by Exat, minus-Bt3 billion.
Most of the disputes come under two categories: Bt78 billion is at stake in cases related to the impact of competition from major construction projects and extensions, while cases concerning toll-rate adjustment account for Bt56 billion.
Exat has a deadline of October 31 to finalise contract extensions, and will extend service and maintenance contracts to 30 years for companies who boost investment on the double-deck expressway and bypass expressway.