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Bangkok’s Orange Line Project Advances Amid Legal Disputes

Bangkok’s Orange Line Project Proceeds Amidst Legal Disputes

Bangkok’s ambitious Orange Line metro project, spanning 13.4 kilometers from Bang Khun Non to the Thailand Cultural Centre, continues to advance despite ongoing legal battles. The Royal Gazette announced on June 5, 2024, that the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) will proceed with land expropriation, a significant step forward for the long-awaited project.

The project, overseen by the Ministry of Transport and the MRTA, has been mired in legal disputes over the selection process for the Bang Khun Non to Min Buri (Suwinthawong) section. The dispute involves the MRTA, the selection committee under the Public-Private Partnership Act of 2019, and Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited (BTSC). The controversy centers on changes made to the selection criteria in a May 24, 2022, announcement, differing from the initial July 2020 invitation.

Despite awaiting the Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling, scheduled for June 12, 2024, the MRTA is pressing ahead with land expropriation. This step ensures that once legal matters are resolved and a contractor is selected, the project can progress without delay. Over the next 180 days, starting from the decree’s enforcement on December 4, 2024, the MRTA will survey the affected properties, evaluate compensation, and adhere to legal procedures.

The Orange Line (West) will feature 11 underground stations and require the expropriation of approximately 380 land plots and the demolition of about 400 structures, with land acquisition costs estimated at 14.661 billion baht.

The route begins at Bang Khun Non Station, following an underground path along the old railway to Siriraj Station, crossing under the Chao Phraya River near the Somdet Phra Pinklao Bridge. It continues under Ratchadamnoen Avenue, past Sanam Luang and Democracy Monument, then along Lan Luang Road to Yommarat Intersection, turns right onto Phetchaburi Road to Pratunam Intersection, left under Ratchaprarop Road to Din Daeng Triangle, then follows Din Daeng Road and Vibhavadi Rangsit Road to the Bangkok City Hall 2, ending at the Thailand Cultural Centre.

The western segment is part of the larger Bang Khun Non-Min Buri (Suwinthawong) Orange Line project, approved by the Cabinet in 2020 with a budget of approximately 140 billion baht. This budget includes 14 billion baht for land acquisition, 96 billion baht for civil works, and 32 billion baht for the rail system, train procurement, operations, and maintenance.

Due to bidding disputes, the Ministry of Transport has paused the project pending the Supreme Administrative Court’s decision. The Central Administrative Court dismissed the case in July 2023, but BTSC appealed, prompting the Supreme Administrative Court’s review.

Should the case conclude, the Ministry of Transport must present the joint investment contract, proposed by the MRTA, to the Cabinet for approval. Once approved, the contract can be signed, and the project can commence. The MRTA has requested Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited (BEM), with Ch. Karnchang Public Company Limited as the civil contractor, to extend their bid validity while awaiting the Cabinet’s decision. BEM has agreed to this extension.

If the contract is signed by the end of 2024, installation of systems and procurement of trains for the 22.5-kilometer eastern section (Thailand Cultural Centre to Min Buri), featuring 17 stations (10 underground, 7 elevated), will begin. This section, separate from the western part, was completed in 2023 and is expected to take three years to become operational by 2027. The western section, being entirely underground, is anticipated to take 5-6 years to complete, aiming for operation by 2032-2033.

Attending officials included representatives from the Ministry of Transport, the MRTA, and key stakeholders from the involved companies. Further developments will be closely monitored as the project progresses.

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