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Global consortium to bid for rail link in Thailand

Billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont's CP Group is teaming up with firms from Asia and Europe to make an offer for 225b-baht project which will connect three international airports


BILLIONAIRE Dhanin Chearavanont's Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group) is teaming up with companies from Asia and Europe to bid for a 225 billion-baht (S$9.4 billion) high-speed rail link connecting three international airports in Thailand.

The link, one of the largest transportation projects in Thai history, is a key part of the infrastructure agenda championed by the military government that seized power in May 2014.

The winning bidder is due to be selected by January, according to the Eastern Economic Corridor Office, the agency overseeing the plan.

The consortium was set to submit a bid on Monday, Adiruth Thothaveesansuk, the vice chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group's special projects development office, said in a statement released on Sunday.

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The statement listed the other members of the consortium as:

  • China Railway Construction Corp;
  • Bangkok Expressway & Metro pcl;
  • Italian-Thai Development pcl;
  • CH Karnchang pcl;
  • Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corp for Transport & Urban Development;
  • CITIC Group;
  • China Resources (Holdings) Co;
  • Siemens AG;
  • Hyundai;
  • Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane SpA;
  • CRRC-Sifang; and
  • Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

The rail link would run between Bangkok's two international airports and another near the tourist hot-spot of Pattaya, the U-Tapao International Airport in Rayong province. The project is linked to the Eastern Economic Corridor initiative, a 1.7 trillion-baht plan to add infrastructure and advanced industries along the eastern seaboard.

Some 31 firms, mostly from Thailand, China and Japan, were studying the project's terms, according to the Eastern Economic Corridor's website. Bids from interested companies were due on Monday. A consortium led by BTS Group Holdings pcl, operator of Bangkok's elevated metro, is also expected to compete for the contract.

"CP Group has emerged as a very strong contender with its partnership with both local and overseas companies," said Adisak Phupiphathirungul, a strategist at Thanachart Securities pcl in Bangkok. "It's still hard to say who is the favourite, because the BTS-led consortium studied the project for quite a long time."

A general election is possible in Thailand in late February next year, raising the question of whether the next civilian administration will adopt the same priorities - such as a push for high-speed train connections - as the military government.

For instance, the upstart Future Forward Party led by tycoon-turned-politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has recommended studying options such as Richard Branson's Virgin Hyperloop One.

Mr Thanathorn has said that developing such networks of pods travelling at airplane-like speeds could enable Thailand to become a technological leader. BLOOMBERG

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