Thailand is considering bidding guidelines for four electric train routes, to pave the way for negotiations with Russia, China and France, which have agreed in principle to accept agricultural products to pay for construction costs.
The project will involve Dark Red, Light Red, Blue and Purple routes and constructing the four rail lines will cost an estimated Bt130bn.
The contractual terms of reference (TOR) will cover two approaches – government-to-government and international bidding.
The State Railway of Thailand will oversee the project and will also select an operator for the Makkasan-Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link.
The government-to-government approach would require the Thai government to negotiate with those countries willing to barter for agricultural products, including rice, para rubber and sugar.
Russia, China and France will likely propose their own investment conditions, payment methods and barter terms.
Each may also propose a single bid that covers all four routes.
These three countries have expressed interest in government-to-government negotiations at a seven-country meeting in October, while Germany, UK, US and Japan say a barter deal is impractical.
“I have to admit that the government-to-government approach and barter is a difficult way to finance a large-scale infrastructure project, but it is not entirely impossible. We are making it possible,” a Thai minister has said.
He adds that if government-to-government negotiations do not yield satisfactory results within two months, the contracts would be put up for international bidding.
That process would be open to all companies interested in participating, according to the Thai transport ministry.
The 73km Dark Red line is intended to run from Makkasan to Ayutthaya, including a 24km elevated track from Makkasan to Don Muang and tunnels at intersections.
Some 22 stations are planned along the route.
The government has said that it expects to save Bt20bn by dispensing with its plan to elevate the rail line for its entire course.
The 57km Light Red line will run from Bang Sue to Nakhon Pathom, with an 11km elevated track from Bang Sue to Bang Bamru.
The plan for the Purple line covers a route from Bang Yai to Bang Sue, while the Blue Line spans the Bang Sue-Bang Khae route, via Tha Phra and Hua Lamphong.