The 50 kilometer bridge over the Gulf of Thailand
Royal concern effectively cancelling Laem Phak Bai project - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, Bangkok Biznews, and Matichon, August 8, 2005
Premier Thaksin said he has to cancel the 50 billion baht Laem Phak Bai Project after receiving concern from His Majesty from Klai Kangwon Palace about environmental impact and this controversial project has cost overrun problems after the fuel hike. Furthermore, this project has not passed an Environmental Assessment (EIA). There is serious concern about mercury and lead deposits at the mouth of Mae Klong River and nearby areas which Laem Phak Bai project has to pass through.
The substitute is to construct a new highway parallel with Highway 4 and Highway 35 along with some elevated sections. This also revitalizes the mothballed Bang Yai-Nakhon Pathom-Ban Pong-Cha Am Motorway as a substitute which is cheaper even though it is 30-40 km longer (total 90 km).
Translation from the Thai press: Laem Phak Bia project scrapped! - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, June 16-19, 2005
The highway department decided to delay or even scrap the 56 billion baht Laem Phak Bia project with a total distance of 92 km and they come up with a Bang Yai-Ban Pong Motorway with a provision for Cha Am as an alternative. The demise of this controversial project is due to cost overruns. The price tag for the 47 km mega bridge across the Gulf of Thailand has shot up from 32 billion baht to over 40 billion baht (or from 500 million baht/km to over 800 million baht/km) due to the fuel hike. This is a very controversial project which the Budget Bureau would refuse to approve.
Furthermore, the environmental assessment on the construction site has shown that the area is a soft clay area with a very muddy sea bottom--requiring extensive pillars. This additional cost for support pillars increased their cost from a few billion baht to more than 20 billion baht.
The soil at the sea bottom also shows very intensive amounts of mercury and lead. The mercury and lead would poison sea life around the area. Continuing fuel hikes and construction material hikes are other headaches for the project. Even Premier Thaksin and Minister Suriya know these facts very well.
The Highway Department would have to spend 4.8 billion baht budget for land expropriation (1 billion baht) and highway maintenance (2 billion baht) even though Budget Bureau has approved only 1 billion baht.
The only viable alternative is the Bang Yai-Ban Pong Motorway with a provision of the extension to Cha Am. However, the price tag for Bang Yai-Ban Pong Motorway alone has shot up from 12 billion baht to 15 billion baht--even the land expropriation alone costs the Highway Department 4 billion baht.
Autumn start planned for Thai mega-causeway - Bridge Web, May 5, 2005
Thailand to have worlds longest road bridge - COWI, May 5, 2005
In the wake of economic growth, very long road bridges are being built...
Thanks to Owen Smith for pointing out these articles.
Gulf of Thailand Bridge - February 8, 2005
On the forum Pas points out the 50km bridge website Another website set up for the public construction exercise. On this page you can see photos and video animation of the bridge project, including study of the Oresund bridge linking Denmark and Sweden. More on the bridge is at this thread on the SkyscraperCity forum.
Bahrain bridge is model for controversial Thai project - The Nation, January 27, 2005
...This will be the first Thai mega-project whose design and construction are done by Thais, said department director-general Therdsak Setthamanop...
Sea bridge design work `made harder' - Engineers say EIA should be passed first - Bangkok Post, December 10, 2004
The government was wrong to go ahead with designing the 60-billion-baht sea bridge over the Gulf of Thailand before its environmental impact assessment (EIA) study was complete, Chulalongkorn University academics say...
Engineers oppose sea bridge - Unsound project, something 'fishy' - Bangkok Post, November 1, 2004
...The institute says the feasibility study is unreliable and the environmental impact assessment is weak.
The government's decision to implement the project is very questionable,'' the president of the institute, Assoc Prof Tortrakul Yomnak, said yesterday.
...Some senior officials had falsely claimed that the sea bridge was a royal project.
" It is apparent that some people are trying to silence the project's opponents by claiming that it was the King's initiative,'' he said.
An abrupt ban on a public forum to discuss the pros and cons of the sea bridge in June only added to his suspicions...
Details inadequate for impact report approval, says geologist - More details sought on alternative routes - Bangkok Post, July 29, 2004
...Experts scrutinising the project's EIA, a prerequisite for a construction permit, have rejected it for lacking detail on alternative routes and the threat of erosion to vulnerable coastlines.
The Mae Klong river runs into the gulf just above Laem Phak Bia, a thin cape serving as a landmark for a section of the bridge in Phetchaburi.
The cape and some nearby shores are already seriously eroded because seaside buildings and jetties in lower southern provinces have trapped sand normally taken north by the sea to the cape...
His division had sent the EIA, which outlines environmental impact mitigation measures, to a panel of experts for approval, he said. The panel, commissioned by the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning, rejected it because it did not give details on alternative routes or give reasons why the gulf bridge was decided on. Panel chairman Prasong Eiam-Anant said: ``We told them this was not really an EIA.''
Mr Prasit disagreed, but said he had asked a consultant to look at alternative routes.
Toll gates for the Laem Phak Bia project - translated and summarized from Than Setthakij, March 14-17, 2004
There will be five toll gates for the Laem Phak Bia project: 1) Nakhon Pathom, 2) Phetkasem, 3) Wat Krasa Khao, 4) Ban Makham Chang (Laem Phak Bia), 5) Cha Am
There will be service areas for both sides of the bridge (Wat Krasa Khao and Ban Makham Chang) and the parking lot for viewing the sea which can carry 150 cars at one time (10 baht parking fee). The toll ticket is 100 baht flat rate.
Thai Press Association criticizing Laem Phak Bia Project - translated and summarized from Dailynews, March 21, 2003 and Siam Turakij, March 21-28, 2004
Journalists from Thai Press Association have criticized the 128-km Laem Phak Bia Project with a price tag of 56.816 billion baht saying it is a big waste of money since it cuts down the distance by only 13 km and it will cause environmental disasters. This project is conceived to please vested interests and Bangkok voters, but not from the demands from local people including Southerners. The proposed plan also has not passed the environmental assessment, but the government is trying to push it very hard by approving a 400 million baht study budget to finish the study in 1 year so as to start the project and be done in 3 years.
There will be 3 sections for this 128-km motorway
1) From Ban Laem Bua (Bangyai - Ban Pong Motorway) and go south to pass Phetkasem Road and Pinklao-Nakhonchaisri Road before ending up at Rama 2 Highway.
2) From Rama 2 Highway to go over the sea at Wat Krasa Khao and end up at Ban Makhma Chang
3) From Ban Makham Chang to pass Route 3117, 3187, and 3147 and then Phetkasem Road before ending up at Cha Am. This section will be constructed with the elevated way across the sea.
There will be 22 communes to be expropriated -> in Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon and Phetburi.
1) Nakhon Pathom 6 Communes
1.1) Tambon Tha Krachub (Nakhochaisri District) - commercial commune at Wat Sai (built in 1817) which has the dragon and phoenix drawing. Wat Sai community has 3700 people who are peasants who work on the rice field, plantation and orchards.
1.2) Tambon Bang Kaeo (Nakhochaisri District) -> 3500 people who work in the fish ponds and factories
1.3) Tambon Klong Mai (Samphran District)
1.4) Tambon Bang Chang (Sam Phran District) -> both have 6800 people
1.5) Tambon Klongchinda (Nakhochaisri District) -> 7200-12000 people who work in fruit orchards, fish ponds and shrimp ponds
1.6) Tambon Kase Phatthana (Nakhochaisri District) -> 4500 people who work in orchards
2) Samut Sakhon - 8 communes
2.1) Tambon Nong Nok Khai (Krathumbaen district) - 3200 people
2.2) Tambon Klong Tan (Ban Phaew District) - 4700 people -> most are peasants working in orchards and plantation
2.3) Tambon Suan Som (Ban Phaew District) - 5300 people -> easy to connect with Damnoen Saduak canal and Thachin River
2.4) Tambon Am Phaeng (Ban Phaew District) - 6200 people -> farmers who work in the rice fields, orchards, fish ponds
2.5) Tambon Ban Ko (Muang district)
2.6) Tambon Tha Sai (Muang district)
2.7) Tambon Bang Krachao (Muang district)
2.8) Tambon Ban Bo (Muang district)
3) Phetburi - 8 communes
3.1) Tambon Laem Phak Bia (Ban Laem district) - close to the Gulf of Thailand -> most of the 2900 people are fishermen or workers
3.2) Had Chaosamran -> (Muang district) 4500 people - most are farmers working in the rice fields orchards, and plantation as well as workers in tourist industry
3.3) Nong Khon (Muang District) - the swampy area along the sea with 5800 people
3.4) Puek Tian (Tha Yang district) - the area with pristine beach -> 1800 people most are farmers in rice fields
3.5) Nong Sala (Cha Am district) - 2600 people -> Most are farmers in rice fields
3.6) Bang kao (Cha Am district) - 2900 people -> most are farmers and fishermen - this is the place where the old traditions and temples dating back from the Ayutthaya period are still alive -such as the PlenNone, Ubosoth of Wat Tanod Luang with Ayutthaya period architecture style of ships
3.7) Cha Am (Cha Am District) - 2900 people -> most are farmers in the rice field and orchards, fishermen, commercial area and hotels since there are about 50 hotels in Cha Am.
3.8) Khao Yai (Cha Am District) - 8300 people
50km bridge plan to be submitted to the cabinet - translated and summarized from Bangkok Biznews, March 9, 2004
The Traffic Policy Office has come up with details on Laem Pak Bai Elevated Way and benefits for the project to be submitted to the cabinet in two weeks. The initial investment will be 400 million baht for design. The design will be done in 1 year and the construction could be started in 2005 and done in the next 3 years.
This 92 km motorway will be 6 lanes starting from Rama 2 Highway and elevated for 8 km before heading to the sea at Wat Krasa Khao, Samut Sakhon and going over the sea for 47 km before reaching Ban Makham Chang, Phetburi and then elevated for another 7km before going across Highway 3117 (11 km from Phetburi) and then elevated again for 30 km before ending up at Cha Am.
The budget is 56.816 billion baht--land expropriation 2.018 billion baht, the elevated road in the mainland 18.193 billion baht, the elevated road over the sea 26.683 billion baht, construction control and environmental care 1.032 billion baht, and expense after construction of 2.278 billion baht.
Economic benefit will be 14.24% benefit/Investment of 1.29 and the motorway will collect a toll of 100 baht/car. It will take 18 years to pay off all the debts.
Minister Suriya said he will push this [controversial] project to be approved by the cabinet to be ready for the first step of the construction in the next 6 months.
Commentary: Expect many Thai netters to criticize this project as a plan to serve vested interests and a scheme to drain the funds from mass transit projects--corruption by policy.
A tale of two newspapers - Bangkok Post, January 20, 2004
Whoever wrote this for the Bangkok Post either does not know this is the controversial Laem Phak Bia Project - the 50 kilometer bridge over the Gulf of Thailand or is deliberately obscuring the fact: Cabinet approval would be sought for a 56-billion-baht bypass road linking Samut Sakhon to the South after feasibility studies are completed by the end of this month... The proposed road would be built along the Gulf of Thailand and link Samut Sakhon to Laem Phak Bia and Phetchaburi's Cha-am district.
The Bangkok Post seems to get more vague and cautious with its news every day. Here is the real story on the same day from Thai Rath: Further Studies for Laem Phakbia Bridge across the Gulf of Thailand Needed
The Traffic Policy Office has asked MOTC to extend the study time and grant 75.75 million baht for further studies on the Laem Phak Bai route to study the following items:
1) New city at the foot of the bridge
2) More details before designing due to the fact that Thai engineers have little experience handling massive construction on the sea. Needs further details such as wind forces, erosion, earthquake and so on to calculate into the preliminary estimated construction cost.
The studies will be handled by Thammasart University from April 2004-April 2005 concerning the route from Rama 2 to Cha Am (92 of 128 km). For the detrimental effects on the mangrove forests along the shore, the project includes 2 billion baht for environmental rehabilitation from Bang Khun Thian by growing mangrove forests and planting more coastal trees.
14-month study for Laem Phak Bia project & small cars promoted - translated and summarized from Dailynews, November 25, 2003
Premier Thaksin said the Traffic Policy Office has approved a 14-month feasible study on the Laem Phak Bia Project with a budget of 70 million baht - and he asked to lower the height of the elevated way to 42 meters to cut down the budget as well as the traffic jam during truck movement. After finishing this line, the government will ask the Expressway Authority to handle these elevated ways. He claimed that this elevated way will allow travel from Hua Hin to Ban Na New City in two and a half hours - by a connection with Ram Indra - Lam Lookka Expressway which will be extended to the new city. For the case of the reduction of fuel consumption, the small City Car (such as the Honda City Car) will be promoted as a choice over big gas guzzling SUVs. And new buildings in Bangkok must take traffic problems into account.
Govt 'distorts' facts on elevated highway - Bangkok Post, September 25, 2003
The Phetchaburi MP claimed 95% of his constituents and most people in Samut Songkram were opposed to the elevated highway project pushed forward by Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit... Building a coastal highway would be a better option, Mr Alongkorn said. It would cost no more than 10 billion baht, seven times cheaper than the planned elevated highway.
Officials are pushing ahead with an elevated highway project to provide a shortcut across the sea to the South from the Central Plains, saying its traffic and economic advantages would outweigh short-term environmental impact.
Angry locals protest against the Laem Phak Bia Project - translated and summarized from Matichon Daily, July 6, 2003 -Vol. 26 No. 9249
The Laem Phak Bia elevated road along the Gulf of Thailand [which includes a 47 kilometer bridge over the Gulf of Thailand] approved by the Traffic Committee has inflamed local people. People from Phetburi are raising fists against the projects since the project is going to create an environmental catastrophe along the coastal Provinces. Even the researchers who handle the environmental assessments were puzzled that the project has been approved even though they have not submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment yet. The abuse of power by Premier Thaksin has slapped the faces of intellectuals as well as local people since 95% of local people disapprove of the project and there have been 18 meeting on the project.
After the meeting with the Traffic Committee on July 4, Premier Thaksin said the 127-km Laem Phak Bia does not affect the environment and is worthy to invest in since it cuts the time for traveling from Bangkok to Cha Am by 40 minutes. There are 20,000 daily passengers going from Bangkok to Cha Am. Toll collecting like Donmuang Tollway for the Laem Phak Bia project would be worthy to invest in.
Local people who called in to a local radio forum (a discussion program on Radio Thailand from 10 am to noon on July 5) told the hosts that they "regret that Premier Thaksin rushed to approve the project without thought!" Even the researchers from Chulalongkorn University and Thammasart University who handled the Environmental Assessment said
they have not finished the EIA yet so they cannot submit the final results to the Traffic Committee. Where did Thaksin get the data to approve such a project? 95% of people from Phetburi strongly disapproved of the project since it was not transparent at all (it is claimed as a royal project to hide hidden agendas) and the initiators refuse to listen to local people. They forced local people to give opinions only about the route that goes across the sea while forbidding people from giving alternatives that go along the coast on the mainland. Only the media who act as mouthpieces of "propaganda for the government like Dailynews, and Manager Daily said the project is 50% approved by local people!"
Local people said the route that goes over the sea will definitely cause environmental disaster on the coast and pollute the Gulf of Thailand from Mae Klong to Phetburi and neighboring coastal provinces. Locals think that Premier Thaksin is intoxicated with high popularity and has become a megalomaniac so he approved 40 billion baht for the such a project!
Even intellectuals from Phetburi could smell a hidden agenda--vested interest around Premier Thaksin! Those vested interests are cement firms (such TPI), steel firms (Siam Steel), and local contractors (such as ITD, KPV, and Si Saeng). Those vested interests are trampling on the heads, skulls, and skeletons of local peoples who will die from broken hearts after their local business and economy from Wang Manao to Cha Am are destroyed and pillaged by vested interests who use national interests to disguise their actions and blindfold the other people from making serious scrutiny into the project.
Even worse, using sham Public Hearings (fooling researchers to conduct polls without other choices) is a violation of the 1997 Constitution (Article 46 and 56).
The fishermen from Ban Laem said the coastal fishery at Don Hoy Lord (Mae Klong), Don Hoy Siab, as well as the coastal farms of Hoy Kraeng and Hoy Malaenphoo at Ban Laem will be put to an end for good if such a project has been approved. All local people at Ban Laeb reject such projects and they are ready to DIE to stop the project since sea is the lifeline of Ban Laem people.
Even the researchers who conducted the polls said they feel double-crossed by the government since the government has fooled them to conduct the polls to legitimize the project. The researchers will submit the final results to the Traffic Office as well as the government to show that they must come up with an alternative or they will lose local trust which will cause a serious blow up in the next election in early 2005. The data which Premier Thaksin has heard from media such as propaganda from the Dailynews has definitely not come from the poll conducted by researchers from Chulalongkron University and Thammasart University.
There will be the grand public hearing in early August 2003 to show how strong local people's disapproval of the project is and to warn the media that they should act as the voice of people, not a mouthpiece of government propaganda.
Commentary: MThai webboards are also considered as a mouthpiece of government propaganda since most posts in the webboards have very strong hatred against NGOs, the Democrats, and media such as Matichon and The Nation.
At 10:30am, Mr Alongkorn Pholabut (Democrat MP from Phetburi) and Ms Rangsima Rotsatsamee (Democrat MP from Samut Songkram) said they strongly oppose the Laem Phak Bia Project since it will ruin the environment, destroy the local economy, put fishermen and orchard farmers out of business. The project does still not have an environmental impact assessment yet and the data available implies that that most local people oppose the project. They still remember the day the Rama II Highway ruined their lives and they are not fully recovered from the disaster even though the fishery at Don Hoy Lord (razor clam dune) and the Floating Market at Tha Kha have helped a little bit.
Furthermore, the project has a hidden agenda as a pork barrel project to feed contractors as well as vested interests such as TPI cement. Due to the strong wind gusts on the offshore section of the bridge, the cost to implement the project will balloon from 40 billion to 85 billion baht. Even though the toll for using the the road across the sea is 100 baht, they are not sure when it will ever break event.
Therefore, the projects must be reviewed. There are cheaper options to expand Rama II Highway and construct a link across Ao Bang Taboon between Samut Songkram and Phetburi. If Premier Thaksin still insists on building the elevated way across the sea, the people of Samut Songkram, Ratburi and Phetbui will revolt and a civil war could ensue, the Democrat MPs warn.
Commentary: Lam Phakbia has only received preliminary approval. Premier Thaksin also suggested some modifications for the project:
1) The interchange at Laem Phakbia should end up at Phetkasem Road in as direct a route as possible to cut costs.
2) Rama II Road at Wat Krasuak Khao Interchange (Rama II Km 32.5) must be expanded.
3) Build the road first and add railway tracks later on.
Some specifications for the project are:
1) 100 meter space between each pillar
2) the height from the sea level to the road is 15-45 meters
If all three things are complete, it will cut costs from 65.45 billion baht to 40 billion baht, Premier Thaksin claimed.
Another public hearing will be held in September 2003 and the project should be approved in early 2004, probably amid strong protests.
BTW: Public debt is now at 2.92 trillion baht (April 30, 2003) - up by 2.768 billion baht (2.917 trillion baht in March 31, 2003)
Bangkok Post has a longer article about this.