Thai oil giant eyes rail project

Thailand’s state-owned oil and gas conglomerate PTT is in talks with potential partners about a joint bid for a US$7-billion high-speed train project linking three of the major Thai airports. 

The military-controlled government is spending heavily on infrastructural projects with its Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) plan seen as a showcase. 

The EEC is a Bt1.7-trillion (US$52 billion) plan to add infrastructure and advanced industries in the provinces of Rayong, Chachoengsao and Chon Buri. The rail link would connect Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports and U-Tapao airport in Rayong, which serves the sleazy tourist hotspot, Pattaya (pictured). 

Secretary general Kanit Sangsubhan of the agency in charge of the project, the Eastern Economic Corridor Office, said the aim was to make as much progress as possible ahead of the promised general election, which is due in February. 

Around 31 firms, mostly from Thailand, China and Japan, are reportedly studying the project’s terms.

One area of assessment would be “how much the consortium will ask of the government for co-investment”, Kanit told Bloomberg. 

PTT, Thailand’s largest company by market value, appears poised to make its first investment in railways. It said running a train line would help it cut logistical costs and allow its retail business to expand before it floats on the Thai stock exchange next year.

PTT chief executive Chansin Treenuchagron told the media that the firm was seeking partners with rail expertise to form a consortium for a bid, including two companies that operate mass rail transit. 

Chansin talks were ongoing with BTS Group Holdings, the majority shareholder of Bangkok’s Skytrain, Bangkok Expressway and the Metro Public Company, also known as the Blue Line.

The bid deadline is November 12.

Chansin said a high-speed rail line east of Bangkok would help tie together several PTT operations and work well with the junta’s other EEC projects.

“More than 50 per cent of our group’s operations, including an oil refinery, a gas separation unit, power plants and petrochemical production plants, and thousands of our employees, are in the EEC area,” he said. “So, we think if we won the right to operate the train that links the area, it will help cut costs and create value to our assets and our supply chain.”

It remains to be seen how much of the infrastructural agenda will remain intact after a general election, amid signs of opposition to elements of the costly projects.


Pattaya is within the Eastern Economic Corridor. Picture credit: Wikimedia