The Hopewell Project News 1999-2004

Hopewell revival & Suvannahbhum Airport Link - Premier Thaksin's megaprojects - Prachachat Thurakij, August 30-September 1, 2004

Hopewell revival - Elevated rail system with Makkasan and Bangsue Centers - translated and summarized from Than Setthakij, April 25-28, 2004
The Traffic Policy Office has hired Asian Engineering Consultant Co.,Ltd, Thai Engineering Consultants Co. LTD, Pacific Consultant Co LTD, CSC Ipham Corp, and Hawcrow (Thailand) Co.Ltd to handle the studies on the Hopewell Revival (Bangsue - Rangsit -> 22.7 km). These studies will check which pillars are usable and which pillars have to be demolished.
This system has to connect with the other projects such as
1) Airport Link (Phyathai - Makkasan - Asok - NBIA)
2) Stations within the city area
3) New Don Muang station to facilitate the low cost airlines
4) New Bangsue Station for northern Bangkok transportation
5) New Makkasan Station for eastern Bangkok transportation center
6) Further Expansion of the networks
6.1) Rangsit - Bangsue - Hua Lamphong - Mahachai
6.2) NBIA - Makkasan - Bangsue - Talignchan
6.3) Rangsit - Ban Phachi Junction
6.4) Lad Krabang - Chachongsao Junction
6.5) Talingchan - Nakhon Pathom
The specification will be meter-gauge electrified tracks for the line which will connect with the SRT trunk line and standard gauge for an Airport Link.
There will be three types of electrified elevated railway
1) Commuter Train - EMU system to reach Ban Phachi, Chachoengsao, Mahachai, and Nakhon Pathom to replace DMUs
2) Long Distance Train - using electric locomotives as a replacement for diesel electric locomotives when the train reaches Nakhon Pathom, Chachongsao, and Ban Pahchi
3) Airport Link (Don Muang - Bangsue - Makkasan - NBIA) with special facilities at Don Muang, Bangsue, Makkasan. Don Muang will have a moving track connecting Don Muang Station with Don Muang Airport while Bangsue has a baggage handling facility. This line can be standard gauge if necessary.
4) The area along the old rail track will become a local road (only the section at grade - Don Muang - Rangsit.
The consultants will finish the studies in June 2004 to be submitted to the board so that they will come up with a budget figure. The final report will be done in November 2004.


Reviving the former Hopewell route
- translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, March 4-7, 2004
The Traffic Policy Office has hired Asian Engineering Consultant Co.Ltd, Thai Engineering Consultant Co.Ltd., Pacific Consultant, International Co.Ltd., and Hawcrow (Thailand) Co.Ltd., to handle the detailed designs of both the Northern Commuter and Bangsue Hub which has to be done in 9 months and 15 days so as to be able to call the bid in 2005.
This Northern Commuter has to connect with the Airport Link which is not even at the design stage. At the minimum, the detailed design for the Airport Link must be done by July 2004.
The Hopewell revival will be an elevated single floor--either shared tracks or separated tracks for High Speed Rail, DMU/Diesel Tracks, and Red Line Commuter which all have to be done in six years. The elevated section will end at Don Muang and then it will be at grade with separated tracks.
According to the structure, the Left Rail will run the Red Line Commuter, the central rail will run Diesel-DMU tracks, and the right track will run a High Speed Rail. After finishing the system, the ground tracks must be removed. The Red Line commuter must be the same at the Airport Link--thus cooperation between the Traffic Policy Office and SRT is a must.
The estimated construction cost is 17 billion baht for the initial phase of both the Red Line Commuter and Pink Airport Link (triple or quadruple if the tracks have a special design from Bangsue to Phyathai to minimize the damages to Chitladda Station--see Eight rules concerning the conservation of Chitladda Royal Railway Station from Thaipost, April 27, 2000). The cost for service hired from the private sector is not included yet.
For the initial phase of Red Line commuter, there will be 8 stations:

1) Rangsit 5) Thong Song Hong (North Park)
2) Donmuang Airport 6) Bang Khen
3) Thung Song Hong Housing 7) Prachaniwet (Samian Naree)
4) Laksi 8) Phaholyothin Center (Bangsue Junction) - connecting with Airport Link
For the initial phase of Pink Airport Link, there will be 12 stations:
1) Phyathai 7) Klong Tan
2) Ratprarob - connecting Pratoonam 8) Phra Ram 9 (Kasem Bundit University)
3) Makkasan (old Makkasan Station - could turn into an interchange station for the short shuttle line to Klong Toei Port if Port Authority decides to make a commercial development at Klong Toei Port) 9) Hua Mark
4) Makkasan Center (the one which is closest to Phetburi Station - create the interchange with the Subway) 10) Thup Chang
5) Royal City Avenue 11) Lad Krabang
6) Thong Lor (Between Wat Chonglom and Soi Soonwijai) 12) NBIA
Commentary:
1) Red Line Commuter needs to have another station at Rangsit University (Lak Hok) since Rangsit University and those who live in Maung Ek Village have set up their self-contained community there, just like those who live in Prachaniwet, North Park and Thung Song Hong Housing.
2) I hope that Phahol Yothin center will connect Mochit 2 and Railway Community of Km11 with the system.
3) I would like to see how SRT is going to handle the section from Phyathai to Bangsue since it must pass by Chitladda Palace and the Royal Household has set up the condition that "Only 2 floors allowed: the platform and the passenger floor."

Latest Hopewell plan - translated and summarized from Transport and Intertrade, March 31-April 6, 2003
Bhakorn Tangsakaojai (Director of Project Administration Center, Special Project Section, SRT) told correspondents from Transport and Intertrade about the progress on the plan to revive the Hopewell project. "SRT has set up the committee to deal with feasibility studies on the new and downsized project to be a substitute for the Hopewell project... The track will be an L-shaped route with 2 sections--northern section from Bangsue to Rangsit and eastern section from Bangsue to Hua Mark." (No elevated station at Hua Lamphong.)
It is necessary to modify the structure leftover from the original project. There are 6,115 support pillars and the 559 giant pillars in the northern section while there are 962 support pillars as well as 19 giant pillars for mass transit system and 17 railway pillars--about 10% of those pillars can be used without modification while the other 90% would be downsized from a 2-level elevated way to a 1-level elevated way and the elevated railway tracks will be increased from 3 tracks to 4 tracks.
SRT is going to construct standard gauge rails to allow the Skytrain to use it in the future (if SRT wants to rent space for s Skytrain to run). If both section are constructed simultaneously, the EIRR (Economic Internal Rate of Return ) will be 24.4%. If the eastern part is constructed in the first five years and the northern part in the next five years, the EIRR will be 18% while the EIRR will be 19% if the northern part is constructed in the first five years and the eastern part in the next five years.
The reason for the original project suspension
SRT told the press that Hopewell (Thailand) Co. Ltd. has breached the contract with SRT and delayed the project which caused heavy losses to SRT, so the government terminated the contract in 1998. SRT reserved the right to ask Hopewell (Thailand) for indemnity for the damages from the contract breach. More on the Hopewell Project
Budget for the studies
SRT has received a budget for feasibility studies (November 26, 1999-August 24, 2001) to be paid to TEAM Consultant Group to deal with the L-Shape route with 24-million baht in financial aid from German KWF (total 84 million baht). After finishing the feasibility study, SRT is asking for a 180-million baht SAL (Structure Adjustment Loan) for the construction design of the northern section via the Office of Traffic and Transportation Policy Planning (Successor of OCMLT) to be paid to the TEAM Consultants.
If the loan is approved, the design will be started in 2004 and take 10 months to finish. Even though the Office of Traffic and Transportation Policy Planning wants to construct the Bangkok Transportation Hub at Taksin (Southern Terminal), Bangsue (Northern), and Makkasan (Eastern), they have decided to delay for a while.
After the design is finished, SRT will ask for a 13 billion baht budget for the northern section (Bangsue-Rangsit), and 24 billion baht for the eastern section (Bangsue-Hua Mark). The construction will take about five years to finish if both sections are constructed at the same time. However, if the government will opt to construct one section at a time to save money, it will take 10 years to finish.
Connection to NBIA
After Hua Mark, the elevated railway will go down from the elevated tracks to use
the double-track eastern way (already double tracked from Hua Mark to Chachoengsao) to Lad Krabang and then go up to another elevated way to go across Onnut Road to the NBIA main terminal. So far, there is no construction of elevated track from Lad Krabang to NBIA Main Terminal yet since the government considers the Motorway and Eastern Outer Ring Road and Bangna-Bang Pakong expressway adequate. The cabinet considers that elevated railways, skytrains and subways are for urban areas within Bangkok Metropolitan area. A rail link to NBIA will be considered only when traffic density around NBIA reaches a critical point.
Future of Hopewell revival
If the government wants to revive the Hopewell project, it will have to invest on the infrastructure in same way the government handles the subway before granting private concessions to maximize revenue. SRT will pave the way for the government to handle the basic structure on the first route. The rate for tickets will be 10+ (1 x distance in km) with the special rates when using Skytrain and Subway. Nevertheless, this project will have high benefit. SRT is working hard to implement this project despite the strong highway vested interests within the Ministry.
Note: Those who control the bureaucracy within this ministry usually come from the Highway Department which will always protect their old fiefdoms (the old boy network as well as other connections with vested interests)--even at the expense of other departments including SRT, the Expressway Authority, etc.

Investors still shy away from Hopewell - translated and summarized from Siamturakij Business News, March 15-21, 2003
The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) told Siam Turtakij that the private sector will decline to invest in the 13-billion baht Hopewell revival project (Elevated Northern Railway -> Hua Lamphoong - Bangsue - Rangsit) since the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is only 9.72% which is too low compared to the standard level while the economic benefit is higher at a 24.4% level. Therefore, SRT will ask the government to invest in the infrastructure (e.g. installing rails and the electric system) while inviting the private sector to make a concession and purchase rolling stock and deal with service to pay back to the government--same way the government handles the subway project and BMA handles the extensions of the Skytrain.
SRT is waiting for the government to approve 180 million baht to pay for a consultant to deal with detail designs. For the case of 24-billion baht Eastern Railway to the new airport (Bangsue - Makkasan - Hua Mark - NBIA) with a distance of 34 km, SRT is planning to hire a consultant with a budget of 335 million baht. Bangkokians will receive benefits from the elevated Northern and Eastern Railway not less than 228.302 billion baht (62.116 billion baht for time saving for Railway Services, 30.321 billion baht saving from vehicle usage in Bangkok, and 135.865 billion baht from time saving for vehicle usage in Bangkok). [Earlier, several organizations, including the subway and skytrain companies, as well as the SRT, wanted to built the airport train, but the government abruptly canceled the project, with the Prime Minister suggesting there was no "need to rush on the construction of a mass transit system linking NBIA with downtown Bangkok due to the fact that there will be an 8-lane highway with no traffic lights." - Thai-languge newspapers, September 3, 2003. It appears now the SRT believes it is in line to complete the project.]


Fulfilling the dream of an electrified train - commentary: March 23, 2003
SRT prefers to electrify the elevated meter gauge rail (for the Hopewell revival--see above article) instead of constructing a new pair of elevated rails to fit into the standard gauge. The electrification of the meter gauge would fulfill the dream of Prince Purachat Jaiyakorn (AKA Krommaphra Kamphaengphet Akkhrayayoithin - 1882-1936), the first Siamese director of Royal Siamese Railways (1917-1926) and the minister of Transportation and Economic Affairs during the time of King Vajiravut and Princprajadhipok (1912-1932).
After the successful electrification of the Paknam Railway in September 1926 and the eastern part of Mahachai Railway (Klong Sarn - Wat Singh) in 1927-28, Prince Purachat Jaiyakorn asked King Prajadhipok (a half younger brother of Prince Purachat) to approve the electrification project for RSR in 1928.
However, King Prajadhipok declined the proposal of Prince Purachat since Siam was still in economic hard times after the Great War and debts from King Vajiravut. Economic measures to cut the budget included cutting the army from 10 divisions to 4 (and 2 divisions later), cutting the number of provinces from 79 to 70, dissolving the Wild Tiger Corps, downgrading the Ministry of Navy to a Department of Navy by merging the Ministry of War and Ministry of Navy into the Ministry of Defense in 1931, cutting the annual royal allowance from 9 million to 6 million ticals (and 3 million ticals later on), moving Siam gold reserves from Paris to London to save on maintenance costs, and cutting Monthols (Circles) from 18 to 14 (and 10 circles later on). [Monthol (Circle) was a set of provinces -> according to the Administration Act of Ror Sor 116 (AD 1897). Monthols were dissolved by the Administration for the Kingdom of Siam BE 2476 (January 1934).]
If the electrification project of Prince Purachat Jaiyakorn had been completed, we would have the electrification from Hua Lamphong to Ayutthaya (and to Lopburi and Khorat later on), Bang Sue to Nakhon Pathom (and Phetburi later on), Bangkok Noy to Talingchan, and Chitladda (there was no Yommaraj station until 1936) to Chachoengsao. At that time Thailand had a population of only 11 million and 18 million in 1950. The baby boom would not start until the late 1950's. - from microfilm at the National Archives (King Prajadhopok SetMinistry of Transportation and Economic SectionRailways)


Give SRT this last chance
- Candid opinions of BRIP
- 09:05, April 5, 2002

Here's a generalized press release/description of the Bangkok Railroad Improvement Project (BRIP) which uses the abandoned Hopewell pillars to elevate rail traffic in town. However, also buried in the SRT site is an undated, apparently unedited, consultant's appraisal of the project complete with spelling errors.
Some interesting points in the appraisal:
Concerning compensation from Hopewell: Initiating a lengthy legal process, which does no good to the Project [BRIP] because no serious bidder can be expected to be Interested in a concession as long as that process lasts. Understandably, the SRT is not interested in pursuing a legal case.
Also: ...Thailand needs a powerful regulatory body. Task would be to ensure fair behaviour of all operators on SRT's corridors by setting up the rules of the game and supervising/enforcing them.... However, as for now, not even the few expressway operators work together under a regulatory body. It is far from short-term realism to think of a juristic person with enough (political) power to generate the expected harmonization.
And finally: We [it's not specified who wrote this] wish the SRT good luck and the right partners in accomplishing a project that in only a few other places would create so much conflict. The Project's economics are strong, strong enough to convince those presently and formerly involved, including Hopewell (Thailand) Ltd., to do their best for Bangkok and Thaiand [sic]: Give SRT this last chance.

PM backs Hopewell revival - Bangkok Post, April 5, 2002
There's a short mention in the Post about the PM stating he backs a Hopewell revival and that more studies will be made. Learn all about the Hopewell project here.

Thaksin does an about face on Hopewell's elevated train service
October 25, 2001 [this story online]

"In a dramatic turnaround over a controversial plan to build an elevated train service into downtown Bangkok, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has now instructed the Transport and Communications Ministry to complete the Donmuang-Bangsue elevated railway that was started by Hopewell (Thailand) company over ten years ago."

Hopewell pillars could stay, new option for north route
Set of tracks would run between stands
October 11, 2001, by Supoj Wancharoen [this story online]

Most of the Hopewell pillars could be kept standing under a ground-based rail expansion plan put up by a transit committee. One hundred concrete pillars would be pulled down, but a set of tracks could be laid between 500 others, said Kumropluk Suraswadi, secretary of a panel studying the fate of the Hopewell project. State Rail, Transport and Communications officials had come up with the idea, he said.

SRT chairman Veera Musikapong heads the committee, which is working on implementing Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's decision to scrap the bankrupt Hopewell mass-transit project in favour of a ground-based expansion on Bangkok's north-bound route, a 15 kilometre stretch from Bang Sue to Don Muang. The number of tracks would be doubled from two. On most of the route, two extra tracks could be laid between the pillars, running parallel.

Mr Kumropluk said 500 pairs of pillars had been built far enough apart--five metres--to allow the new tracks to fit between them. However, 100 pairs near Chaeng Watthana and Ngam Wong Wan roads were too narrow, with only three metres in between. One pillar from each of these pairs would be scrapped to make room for new tracks, he said. Detours would have to built along one-fifth of a local road to avoid the new tracks.

Increasing the number of tracks, and building four new flyovers for vehicles in Wat Samian Nari, Ngam Wong Wan, Chaeng Watthana and Song Prapha, would cost about 6.8 billion baht. The panel would also propose expenditure of nine billion baht to improve three railway stations along the route.

The Bang Sue, Chaeng Watthana and Don Muang stations should be expanded to serve a future elevated mass transit system similar to the BTS train service, he said. He denied reports that the prime minister had decided to demolish the Hopewell structures. Most would be kept for future use, said Mr Kumropluk, who is also deputy director of the Office of the Megaproject Co-ordination Committee.

SRT may not have to abandon Hopewell
Business Day, October 4, 2001, by Siriphan Pongthanee [this story online]

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) may not have to scrap the Hopewell mass transit project as it is still possible to construct the double-track elevated train from Bangsue to Rangsit by utilising the partly-finished groundwork, SRT chairman Veera Musikapong said yesterday.

Following a meeting yesterday with Communications Minister Wan Muhammad Noor Matha and representatives from the SRT and Land Traffic Management Commission (LTMC) to determine the future of the Hopewell project, Veera said that the SRT had two options: It can build a track parallel to the existing one between Bangsue and Rangsit, at a cost of about nine billion baht, or it can follow through with the 14 billion baht elevated two-track system using the existing groundwork built by the Hopewell company.

Veera added that if the SRT decides to construct the elevated track, the cost could be scaled down.

"The five billion baht difference in construction costs should not hinder this project, especially if one considers the benefits in terms of traffic reduction," he said.

Veera said that the construction of a parallel set of tracks on the ground would likely raise the problem of having to build concrete walls along the tracks as well as elevated roads over junctions.

Wan Noor said that he had asked the SRT to decide how it would proceed by November.

"A special committee comprising representatives from the SRT, LTMC and the communications ministry, which will be chaired by me, has been established to look into the matter and to find a solution by November," he said.

A source from the SRT said that it had hired the Team consulting company to conduct a feasibility study of the installation of a second set of tracks from Bangsue to Rangsit with limited costs. "Team will submit its results to me within the next two weeks," he said. Team will have to determine the construction costs of the elevated train project as well.

Reaction to the killing of the Hopewell Project
October 2, 2001

Commentary: Premier Thaksin received heavy criticism from the former ministers of MOTC since the abandoned structure of Hopewell is much stronger than the usual structure Thai contractors would build. MOTC considers demolition a total waste of taxpayers' money--saving a few pennies but wasting a billion dollars. The new double tracks and the Bangsue expansion with a new maintenance center might worsen traffic congestion even with three new flyovers--at Ngamwongwan, Chaneg Watthana, and Song Prapha (500 million baht per flyover).

The Thai Post Daily editor said on October 1, 2001 that Premier Thaksin should make much deeper analyses before finalizing the plan for demolition since the proposal to demolish the structure and replace it with a new set of double tracks will cause controversy. On the other hand, the economic editor from Matichon Daily alleged on October 1, 2001 that the NAP (New Aspiration Party) which controls both MOTC and SRT planned to launder money from illegal trades with SLORC (the Burmese military junta) by reviving Hopewell. The Premier's demand to demolish the Hopewell pillars is considered a thunderbolt for NAP since Premier Thaksin never consulted with Ajarn Wannor or Mr. Veera or NAP members at all.

Thaksin halts SRT's plan to revive Hopewell project
Business Day, September 28, 2001, by Siriphan Pongthanee [this story online]

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has turned down the State Railway of Thailand's (SRT) proposal to revive the Hopewell project, and ordered the agency to cut back on future investment.

After an SRT strategic planning workshop yesterday, Thaksin said instead of investing in the abandoned Hopwell elevated rail project, the SRT should invest in laying new tracks parallel to existing lines in heavy traffic areas.

The PM estimated that the parallel track project would cost about one billion baht, compared to 38 billion baht needed to revive the Hopewell project.

Thaksin also shot down an SRT proposal to build underground tracks from Hua Mak station to Suwannabhumi airport, saying the project need more a detailed cost/efficiency study.

The premier suggest in the workshop that the SRT study the feasibility of expanding Bang Sue station to be the main hub for southern train routes, to reduce traffic congestion at Hua Lumpong station.

"Using Bang Sue as a hub for southern routes would reduce as many as 100 train trips to Hua Lampong" he said.

Regarding SRT management, Thaksin said the authority should have a clear plan to reorganise its business structure, saying the SRT should, at least, separate railway and another infrastructure management from the traffic operation.

The PM had also urged the SRT to propose a clear complete scheme for debt management after implementing its organisation restructuring plan, especially with regard to fare structures, since the government would have to share the SRT's 43 billion baht accumulated debt after the restructuring.

Thakisn added that the Finance Ministry had earlier confirmed the SRT's 43 billion baht debt was considered public debt, and therefore the responsibility of the government to ensure successful restructuring.

Meanwhile, SRT chairman Veera Musikapong said the workshop had agreed to put the Hopewell extension on hold since the project cost was improper for the current economic situation, while the solution for the remaining structure would be determined at a later date.

"We will discuss the matter with the Commission for Management of Land Traffic, which should result in the tearing down of the structure and laying a quad-track railway that will cost less," Veera said.

Regarding the SRT's accumulated debts, Veera said the organisation would review its debts, prioritise them, and forward a proposal to the government for financial assistance within two weeks.

The SRT has been under pressure from the public over its train services, with numerous complaints from train users including the punctuality of trains and rude conductors.

Hopewell project on scrap heap
Thaksin rejects plan; pillars to come down
Bangkok Post, September 28, 2001
By Amornrat Mahitthirook

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has rejected expensive plans to revive the Hopewell mass transit project and told the railways authority (SRT) to spend the money laying more tracks instead. The railways governor says this means the Hopewell pillars, which stand along the tracks from the city out to Mor Chit, would probably have to be demolished.

Mr Thaksin told a workshop yesterday the state could not afford to spend tens of billions of baht reviving the elevated Hopewell project, as the State Railways of Thailand proposed. Instead, the SRT should increase to four the number of tracks between Bang Sue and Don Muang, part of Hopewell's northern route. This would cost only 6.8 billion baht.

Bang Sue railway station could also be redeveloped to replace Hua Lamphong station. This would cut the number of trains running through the inner city to Hua Lamphong by 105 trips a day. He was confident the 1.5-billion-baht Bang Sue scheme would relieve road traffic.

"We have traffic solutions which don't require use of the Hopewell structures, are better suited to the economic situation and protect the state's finances," Mr Thaksin said. He accepted an SRT request for government subsidies for services running at a loss.

Transport Minister Wan Muhamad Nor Matha said ordering an end to the Hopewell project was in line with the recommendations of the Commission for Management of Land Traffic. SRT chairman Veera Musikapong said Mr Thaksin also rejected as unnecessary a proposal for an electric train system from Makkasan via Hua Mark to the Nong Ngu Hao airport.

SRT governor Saravut Thammasiri said the abandoned concrete Hopewell pillars might have to be demolished if they blocked expansion of railway tracks. Hopewell said it spent 12 billion baht building the pillars.

Hopewell Update
August 20, 2001

Commentary: SRT told Mr. Woo that SRT can revive the Hopewell project by themselves, without any assistance from Hopewell at all even though it would take 20 years to complete the first section.

State told to elevate Hopewell train tracks
Bangkok Post, June 20, 2001 [This article on the Bangkok Post site.]

The state is being urged to revive the Hopewell road-rail project by first funding the cost of elevating the tracks of diesel trains. Building four elevated tracks along 40 kilometres of the Hopewell routes would cost only about 21.8 billion baht, said Kumropluk Suraswadi, deputy director of the Office of Megaprojects.

"If the state invests in the project it could cut the construction cost by 5-7%. The construction period would be shortened to about three years because the state could start right away," he said.

If the state was able to raise the funds, building elevated electrified tracks would raise the cost to 31.5 billion baht. A state railway source said the money was available, and the work should include electrified tracks. The source said a study by Team Consultant Engineering Co concluded the private sector had little interest in reviving the Hopewell project.

Hopewell lobbies for project revival
Sends negotiator for talks with SRT
Bangkok Post, June 11, 2001

Talks are underway to breathe new life into the unfinished Hopewell mass transit project, which was terminated in 1997. A Transport Ministry source said Gordon Wu, chairman of Hopewell (Thailand) Co, wanted the project revived and lobbied for construction to be resumed. Mr Wu sent a representative to negotiate with the State Railway of Thailand. He was confident the Thaksin Shinawatra administration would last its four-year term and allow the project to continue.

The source said the firm would succeed if it was steadfast in its commitment to carry on the project. Hopewell would probably be chosen by the SRT board even though a fresh bidding contest would be held to screen the contractor. The government scrapped the contract with Hopewell in 1997 because of delays in construction work. The firm halted construction in August of that year when it failed to raise enough funds from its creditors.

Sutham Yunaitham, a Chulalongkorn University law lecturer, was against the practice of commissioning a private company to undertake construction in return for a concession to operate the mass transit system. The huge financial burden would cause the concessionaire to increase service fees, he said. The government would have to shoulder the entire cost of construction itself. Granting the concession to Hopewell would allow crooked politicians to pocket vested gains. He suggested the government issue a licence instead of a concession. The licence would do away with a single service provider monopolising the operation. Mr Sutham said academics collaborated with the World Bank and NGOs to work out transport reforms which encouraged free competition among private transit system providers. The study would be concluded in three to six months.

Transport Minister Wan Muhamad Nor Matha said the likely option was to invite the private sector to jointly invest in the project and receive the operating concession. He dismissed suggestions the project would be prone to irregularities and said the government was open to scrutiny at every stage. Suravut Thammasiri, the SRT governor, said it was unclear if Hopewell would be given the nod since negotiations were on-going. The project might be scaled down in accordance with Transport Ministry policy

Studying the "7-Generation Project"
Thaksin Ordering OCMLT to Study Hopewell
Wan Nor Expecting 60 Billion Baht Budget
Matichon, June 7, 2001

Thaksin is ordering OCMLT to study the Hopewell Revival Plan with a budget reduction of 40-60 billion baht for the Northern Section only (Hua Lamphong - Rungsit). The government has no cash for the project so the private sector has to handle it as a turnkey project.

On June 6, 2001 at Government House, Premier Thaksin Shinnawatra headed the First Meeting for the Royal Projects to Solve Bangkok Traffic Solutions of 2001. The significant projects for Bangkok traffic resolution are the Rama VIII Bridge and the Industrial Ring Road (in Phra Pradaeng , Klong Toei, Rama III, Bang Chak area).

Mr. Yongyut Tiyaphairat (OPM Speaker), said that the Premier was ordering OCMLT to study how to revive the moribund Hopewell Project. It is a total waste of the taxpayers' money so far and worthless to abandon the pillars and foundations without doing anything. Therefore, the Premier wants to see if those abandoned pillars can be used as new Skytrain lines and, if so, how much it will cost.

Pol. Maj. Yongyut said "Nevertheless, OCMLT had already studied the Hopewell revival, with a BTSC connection at Phyathai Station. However, OCMLT needs to negotiate with SRT, BMA, BTSC as well as Mr. Gordon Woo to see if Mr. Woo and BTSC can make a joint venture on the revived project. If they can deal with it, then it will be just fine to do so. However, the initial study about Hopewell revival by BTSC connection is just one of many options, so we need to make more studies on the revival plan."

Mr. Wanmuhammad Nor Matha (MOTC Minister) said that the SRT Board are dealing with a plan with a preliminary budget of 40-60 billion baht to construct as elevated ways the Northern line from Rangsit to Hua Lamphong and Eastern line from Hua Mark to Yommaraj. So far, Minister Wan Nor said the cost is too high since the government can allocate only 20 billion baht for such a project. Therefore, Minister Wan Nor asks SRT to cut down the project to keep it affordable. If possible, only the Northern section would be built to save money.

Minister Wannor said "After perusing the proposal from SRT, we'll decide whether the public will have to make a 100% investment or a joint venture with the private sector. With today's economy, a 60 billion baht budget from public coffers is definitely hard if not impossible to come up with." Therefore, the private sector will come up with funds to invest in this project or make a joint venture with the government.

Minister Wannor said the BMA Governor already has the project details from SRT about the Hopewell revival plan and the connecting point at Phyathai Station. If SRT and BMA can cooperate on this project, there is no problem since people will receive the benefits from the projects.

Historical Notes:
The Hopewell Project was signed by MOTC (Mr. Montri Phongphanit), SRT and Hopewell (Thailand) Co.Ltd. (Mr. Gordon Woo) on November 9, 1990 during the tenure of the late Montri Phong Phanit (Minister of MOTC), amid controversial rumors of corruption and unusual land deals. Hopewell had to find financial resources (about 80 billion baht - then US$ 3.2 billion) to backup the project for the right to develop real estate along the SRT lines. However, there were so many obstacles to deal with--including blueprints, land transfers, the routes which go parallel to other projects, and a financial crunch--that the project bogged down. There were also many committees dealing with the Hopewell project.... After September 1997, Mr. Suwat Liptaphallop (MOTC Minister during the Gen. Chawalit Yongjayut government) sent the issue of the project delay to the cabinet and Mr. Suthep Thueaksubun decided to terminate the project in 1998. Even though several groups offered to revive it, controversies still haunt the project, earning it the the nickname "the 7-generation project."

Wannor Speeding up the Hopewell revival by Reducing the project and budget to 60 billion baht
Thaipost, June 7, 2001

SRT is trying to revive the Hopewell Project with a preliminary budget of 60 billion baht. Minister WanNor ordered to cut the budget further since he felt that the government may have little money to invest in such a project. Hopewell Co.Ltd. in Hong Kong hopes to be involved in the project and Mr. Woo is trying to negotiate to revive the contract.

Minister WanmuhamadNor Matha (MOTC Minister) said that SRT has made a preliminary budget on the Hopewell revival that the government needs 40-60 billion baht to deal only with the elevated railways from Rangsit to Hua Lamphong (Northern Line) and Hua Mark to Yommarat (Eastern line). However, the government could allocate only 20 billion baht to deal with the project due to economic constrains.

Mr. WanNor told SRT that they have to cut down the project as much as possible by creating elevated railway sections only. The investment plan can be a turnkey project (private sectors invest first and the government pay back later) or private sectors have to handle all parts of the project (including the rail and rolling stock systems) as the motivation for the private sectors to deal with revival.

Mr. Wannor Said "The most important issue is finding financial sources to handle the projects. Only the elevated railways will survive since the project must be cut to the bones to revitalize the project." Mr. Sarawut Thammasiri (SRT Director) said the SRT committee headed by Mr. Weera Muskiaphongse proposed that the way to cut down the project is to dig road tunnels under the railways, but it is necessary to make a study on whether SRT could dig the road tunnels.

SRT Director said Mr. Cloria Wia (Manager of Hopewell (Hong Kong) Co.Ltd.) recently issued a letter to SRT about the discussion and the proposal to revive the Hopewell Project on June 12, 2001. However, Hopewell Co.Ltd. has proposed to set up a joint venture company with Thai government to handle the Hopewell project, but it is impossible since Thai government has already canceled the project. However, the new discussion might result in the new acceptable term for SRT. However, SRT cannot be sure if the new idea will be viable in reality.

Hopewell revival faces budget trim
Elevated roadways could be dropped
The Bangkok Post, June 7, 2001, Amornrat Mahitthirook

A 60-billion-baht proposal to revive the abandoned Hopewell road-rail project is too expensive for the transport minister. He wants to cut the cost as much as possible. As a result, the mega-project may turn out to be only flyovers or underpasses at level crossings.

Sarawut Thammasiri, governor of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), presented the plan to TransportMinister Wan Muhamad Nor Matha yesterday. The proposal drops elevated expressways from the project and retains only elevated railways. The change reduces the estimated cost from nearly 100 billion baht to 40-60 billion baht. However, Mr Wan Nor still considered the cost too high and told the railway chief to further reduce it as much as possible. "The state can afford only about 20 billion baht, so the SRT must change the investment plan."

The private sector could be invited to build the project on a turnkey basis, under which the state would raise money for payment later. Otherwise, the state could build the civil work and let the private sector install and operate a train system. After meeting the minister, Mr Sarawut said that to minimise the cost, the Hopewell project might become a railway network on the ground, with flyovers or underpasses at level crossings to avoid road traffic.

That would still meet the original objective--to eradicate level crossings on Bangkok railway tracks from Rangsit via Yommarat to Hua Lamphong and from Hua Lamphong to Hua Mark. There are 23 level crossings along the 40km route. "This would reduce the project's cost considerably," Mr Sarawut said. "We must study whether it would be possible to build flyovers or underpasses at level crossings."Hopewell managing director Colin Weir would present him another proposal to revive the project next Tuesday, he said.

Hopewell earlier proposed to set up a joint venture with the state to continue building the project, Mr Sarawut said. Negotiations were canceled after the state terminated the project contract with Hopewell. Hopewell halted construction in 1997 because of financial problems and the government eventually terminated the deal.

Skytrain could use Hopewell pillars
The Nation, June 7, 2001

The discarded Hopewell elevated railway pillars may be used to expand the Bangkok electric train project, a senior official in charge of Bangkok traffic said yesterday. Yongyuth Sarasombat, secretary-general of the Office of the Commission for Management of Road Traffic (OCMRT), said his office would encourage the Bangkok Transit System Co to negotiate with Hong Kong-based Hopewell Holding Ltd for use of the abandoned structure.

The Hopewell project, planned as a 60-kilometre rail and road network, was abandoned in 1998 after the Hong Kong-based firm ran into financial difficulties. It has left thousands of concrete pillars standing along the planned routes. The project was initially called the Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System.

Yongyuth spoke after a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other government agencies about the progress of projects to solve the capital's traffic woes. Government spokesman Yongyuth Tiyapairat said Thaksin asked the OCMRT to study how to make use of the abandoned pillars. "The prime minister wants the OCMRT to find out how to further develop the Hopewell project with minimum investment to make the most of providing mass transportation," the spokesman said. Yongyuth said his office would work with the State Railway Authority of Thailand (SRT), which owns the project and which has asked a consultant to study how to revive it.

The secretary-general said the SRT could submit its study for consideration to the OCMRT this month, before it is passed to Cabinet for approval. "The OCMRT suggests the Hopewell be used to expand the [skytrain] project," Yongyuth said. He said the skytrain might be linked to the Hopewell structure at Chatuchak Park. "This way, the [Bangkok Transit System Corp] will not have to invest in new structure for expansion and it will be able to extend its route much further," he said. Yongyuth said the SRT, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Hopewell and Bangkok Transit System Corp should negotiate the use of the abandoned project for expanding the skytrain.

Commentary: It may be necessary for SRT to ask if MRT and BTSC can make a joint venture with SRT to deal with connections to ensure that it will eventually become a mass transit network. SRT can use the MRTA depot to park the commuters while letting MRTA run the MRT service in the North and BTSC run the MRT service in the East. SRT would run the track not covered by MRT (Donmuang to Rangsit) and make Northern interchange stations at Hua Lamphong, Yommaraj (for commuter train only), Bangsue, and Donmuang and eastern interchange stations at Yommaraj (for commuter train only), Makkasan, and Hua Mark to ensure speedy service for commuters and high coverage for the MRT.

Hopewell Revival to Go to the SRT Board
Travel & Transportation Journal, May 28-June 3, 2001

The Hopewell revival has not become a reality yet despite all the years and billions of dollars spent. With current budget constrains, it is impossible for the government to allocate funds for the Hopewell revival. However, MOTC Minister (HE Wan Muhammad Nor Matha) said "Hopewell Revival must get underway during my tenure!"

So far, SRT is trying to obtain more information about Hopewell revival plan before sending it to the SRT Board. If the SRT Board approves the revival plan, SRT will submit the plan to the MOTC before sending to the Cabinet for approval.

The revival plan states that only two of the route directions are to be spared - the northern and eastern corridor. The western and southern directions are gone for good. Expressways are gone as well. No more local roads. The northern section will be 30km-22km elevated tracks from Don Muang to Hua Lamphong and 7.8 km ground-level tracks from Don Muang to Rangsit. The eastern section will be a 14km elevated track from Yommarat to Hua Mark. The total budget will be 98 billion baht - 64 billion baht from the public sector and 34 billion baht from the private sector. It will be a turnkey project which the private sector (concession holders) must find creditors to support the project. A 30-year concession will awarded to the private sector, but the private sector must deal with designing, building and operating through the following steps.

1) Concession holders will have to finance the project on their own and the government will pay back only the construction part (64 billion baht plus interest) according to the contract term.
2) SRT will receive the structure after the construction finishes.
3) Concession holders will have to transfer the rolling stocks, structure, and equipment after the concession expires.

If the project becomes a reality, 23 railway track-road crossings will be eliminated which will enable trains to speed up to a maximum 120 km/hr instead of the current speed of 30 km/hr. Such a project will help the distribution of wealth from the city center to the suburbs and nearby provinces.

So far, SRT has decided to construct elevated tracks since it saves 26.2 billion baht from digging subway tunnels. Elevated tracks can be handled by local contractors, but subway tunnels require specialized expertise from foreign contractors. Elevated tracks also have much better ventilation.

The revival steps will be as follows:

1) Construction using the existing abandoned structure as much as possible from Don Muang to Hua Lamphong and Yommarat to Hua mark (36 km total) and putting tracks on ground level from Don Muang to Rangsit. There will be five commuter stations (Hua Lamphong, Don Muang, Rangsit, Yommarat, Hua Mark) and 27 MRT stations (stations in between terminal stations) with a maintenance center.
2) Laying tracks and installing the signal and telecommunication systems as well as the ticket machines, controller systems and the information center.
3) Purchasing 80 sets of electric rolling stocks, 32 for commuters and 48 for MRT.

Commentary: It would be much better if SRT can persuade MRTA and BTSC to create a company to be the concession holder so as to put the subway and skytrain rolling stocks into a full utility such as MRT. However, the conditions of the concession must be changed. MRTA should handle the northern corridor so as to enable MRTA to create a mini-ring mass transit system while BTSC should handle the eastern section to enable the Skytrain to go to Suvannabhum Airport in the future.

The eastern extension should be as follows:
1) Commuter train to Chachoengsao
2) MRT to Nong Ngoo Hao

The northern extension can go to Ayutthaya for the commuter train, but the MRTA northern extension may end up at Chiang Rak instead. MRTA should handle the former western extensions or MRTA should just simply abandon them.

The Solution for Hopewell from the Voices of Those Who Live along SRT Railways
Thairath Daily, Front Page Scoop
May 21, 2001

Every time there is a change in government, the new Minister of Transportation will dust off Suvannabhum Airport and the Hopewell Project. The difference between these two delayed projects are that Suvannabhum Airport is progressing little by little by little. On the other hand, the Minister of Transportation said he does not want to see the Hopewell pillars abandoned anymore.

The first change will probably be the revival of the project as an elevated railway project to eliminate the crossings over roads which means it is impossible to revive the project in the original form which consisted of elevated road and skytrain in the upper part of the elevated railway since it is unworthy to do so and the budget constraints has cut down the chance to revive in the original form.

"Initially, the revival plan should be suburb for commuters in northern Bangkok. The Minister is waiting for SRT to propose the project form and investment plan, but SRT should not propose a high investment budget."

So far, Hopewell Project is the construction with the height of a 5-floor building but separated into 3 floors - the first floor would be shops and local roads. The second floor will be a platform of railways and skytrain. The third floor would be an expressway that parallels Don Muang Tollway (also an expressway).

The project was first approved by the cabinet of the late Gen. Chartchai Chunhawan which had the late Mr. Montri Phongphanit as the Minister of Transportation and who signed the project, one year after proposing it. The unusual speed of approving the project caused much criticism since the cabinet should have spent more time studying the project before approving the the 80 billion baht budget. The initial line of Hopewell would have reached the city center in three directions - northern from Rangsit, eastern from Hua Mark and western from Thonburi.

The most critical part of the contract was the privilege for the concession holder to construct along the golden SRT area of Bangsue, Hua Lamphong, Makkasan etc with an annual value of 70 billion baht. The contract with Hopewell was signed on November 9, 1990 and the latest revision on November 7, 1991 with a deadline to be complete within 8 years (December 1998). However, the project was 13.77% done when it reached the deadline. Therefore, Mr. Suwaj Liptaphanlop (then Minister of Transportation) decided to terminate the contract since the government saw that Hopewell had no will and no potential to correct the problems and finish the project on time. However, the contact signed by the late Montri Phongphanit had many loopholes and put the Thai government in a disadvantageous position, but the Thai government has declined to use the right to obtain compensation from Hopewell.

Now, is the time of Mr. Wan Muhammad Nor Matha (the current minister of transportation) to "wake" the Hopewell Ghost up which always pressures Hopewell (Thailand) Co.Ltd. So far, the company still reserves the right to act and said Mr. Gordon Woo is waiting for clear policy and the contact from Thai government. For the problems about reinvestment on the project, the company said it depends upon the conditions set by SRT and the Thai government. If the conditions are unfair, the company will threaten to sue the government to pay HK$6 billion back the company. Such actions from both sides show the deep bargaining game is starting again. So far, SRT and MOTC have not paid any attention to the threat from Hopewell at all since they play to change the new project from "Hopewell Project" to "Elevated Train Project" before starting the construction--with public investment on the basic structure while allowing the private sector to handle the construction and finding the financial resources to handle the projects.

However, the people who live along the Northern Railway have different opinions. Mr. Kasem Phoosawatcharoen (a local person from the Pepsi Village Community) who has observed the project since 1990, told Thairath that the government needs to have strong determination to conclude the project once and for all. "There's no problem at all to deal with the project even though the contract with Hopewell has many loopholes that put the government in trouble. We should go on our own without having to care about the world's opinion since the world outside our country will do NOTHING to bail Thailand out of trouble." Mr. Kasem also said that "this is Thailand. Every problem happening here must be solved by Thai laws, and nobody should have extraterritorial privilege at all. I feel confident that if our government is sincere to solve this problem, they'll find the way to deal with it, even though the contract has so many loopholes and put the government at a disadvantage."

Mr. Kasem mentioned another similar case in China. "The Central government said the building built by a Thai firm in China belongs to the Thai owner, but the Provincial Court didn't accept the verdict from the central government and the Thai firm can do nothing about it since China considers their own national interests first." Therefore, the Thai government should set up a committee (the last one) to make a detailed study on the revival of project with a deadline attached. "It is possible to ask for prosecutors or the neutral lawyers to deal with legal problems to define what the government should do. After the study, government should make a decisive and final judgment about how to deal with the abandoned project, with the national interests of Thai people as the main goal."

As for the threat from Hopewell that the company has wasted HK$ 6 billion and the government has to pay back all the wasted money, Mr. Kasem said. "Do they want to threat us via the International Court and legal mediators? Well, let them do it! However, I want to tell them that nobody in the world will accept the International Court or the final judgment from other people. Only Thailand had accepted such a MAD and STUPID court decision through the loss of Khao Phraviharn in 1962. Therefore, we should NEVER accept the decision from such a Kangaroo Court again!"

Commentary: Such a decision will gall many potential foreign investors. Probably we should find a compromise deal with Mr. Woo as well as the local people. The clash between foreign investors and the local people should be considered as a disaster.

Hopewell keen on reviving entire project
Amornrat Mahitthirook, Bangkok Post, April 25, 2001

Hopewell would revive its elevated road and train project in Bangkok rather than abandon what it built three years ago, says spokesman Anusak Inthraphuvasak. Although the Thai government had canceled its contract after construction delays, Mr Anusak said Hopewell was keen to make use of the substructure that has cost it about 30-40 billion baht (at current foreign exchange rates). "The project can be still realized on the substructure in which Hopewell invested. It will not be costly to maintain for future use," he said.

Hopewell has to compete in a fresh bidding contest to win the right to revive the project. The company was waiting for the government to settle bidding terms. If it won the contest, Hopewell would stick to its plan to build both elevated railways and expressways rather than dropping expressways from the project as the State Railway has suggested. "Elevated expressways are worth the investment," Mr Anusak said.

State Railway governor Saravut Thammasiri said he was looking at ways of reviving the Hopewell project. The Council of State had to rule whether the original contract would have to be rewritten. "If it is to be the old contract, we can go ahead and choose a new contractor right away. But if it is a new one, the project must undergo one or two years of scrutiny under the law governing joint ventures between the public and private sectors," Mr Saravut said.

Commentary: I seriously doubt whether a revival, at full scale, of the Hopewell Project would be worth it. Donmuang Tollway and Expressway are competing for more customers. Northern Bangkok Expressway (Chaeng Watthana - Bang Pa In) and Sri Rat Expressway (Bang Klo - Chaeng Watthana) have already merged into a single company and the company just turned a profit after eight years in the red. However, the Donmuang Tollway runs at heavy loss despite continuing promotion and discounts. They better consider selling Donmuang Tollway to the Expressway Authority to write off the debts. However, I don't think the Expressway Authority will have any cash or incentives to do so since they are also in heavy debt. Furthermore, I think the Council of State will likely to rule that the revival plan must be a new one with reduced facilities.

Commuters from Nong Ngoohao, Rangsit, Talingchan and Taksin to feed Skytrain
Thairath Daily, April 18, 2001
Article on the Unofficial Bangkok Master Plan Site suggesting that SRT create commuter lines to feed the Skytrain and subway systems.

Hopewell Project Study
April 16, 2001 - An anonymous email alerted us to www.bangkok-21.de. It's a study considering the future feasibility of the Hopewell Project. We also were informed that the SRT will be holding a seminar on their study sometime in May, 2001.

Pongphol Declaring that Government Must Revive Hopewell
Dailynews, April 9, 2001

Pongphol Adireksarn (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Office of Prime Minister) is trying to push forward the Hopewell revival plan and declaring that the Thaksin Government must realize the revival plan during this administration while fully supporting subway and skytrain extensions.

Mr. Pongphol Adireksarn, who acts as a head of the traffic committee, said his policy will follow the first announcement to the National Assembly which said the government will continue supporting mass transit projects to ensure convenience and safety for travelling. Therefore, he would push forward the subway and skytrain extensions as well as the Hopewell revival which has been abandoned for years. The abandoned project has created a bad image for the country and prevented easy travel for the people of northern Bangkok. He had discussed with OCMLT and the Traffic Committee about the revival plan and a cooperation plan with other related offices (e.g. SRT and so on) to reach a conclusion which enables the government to push the revival plan forward. This government may call a new bid or ask Mr. Wu to discuss and mediate for the revival plan. Mr. Pongphol also said he would emphasize traffic accident reduction which causes heavy loss in human and property terms every year.

Pol. Maj. Yongyut Sarasombut (Traffic Committee Permanent Secretariat) said MOTC is a direct supervisor of Hopewell Project via SRT. Therefore, OCMLT and the Traffic Committee will do its best to cooperate with the MOTC and the government for the Hopewell revival plan. If it is impossible to use the same old routes (Hua Lamphong-Rangsit and Yommarat-Hua Mark), OCMLT will come up with a readjustment to the northern extension of the Skytrain (Mochit-Lum Lookka). The northern Skytrain extension planners have invited the committees from other organizations to assess the viability of the northern extensions via the Hopewell structure.

Sending the Hopewell Project to the Cabinet Again
SRT Scrapping the Elevated Road from the Revival Plan
Matichon Daily, April 11, 2001

Mr. Weera Musikaphong (AKA Mr. Black Pearl), chairman of the SRT Board, said that he needs to wait for cabinet decision whether they should revive or scrape the Hopewell project right away. So far, the cabinet said the 97.85 billion baht (about US$ 2.45 billion) budget is too high. Therefore, the SRT board will have to revise the budget before submitting the revised plan to the cabinet again.

Mr. Weera said the SRT board has agreed scrap the elevated road out of the revival plan and leave the triple railway tracks and double skytrain tracks intact. However, the SRT board cannot come up with the the amount of budget saving after the plan revision. He also said that the SRT board will have to discuss with the cabinet about the private participation plan--whether they will receive the concession without competition or call a new bid to compete. SRT Board will draft TOR by the end of May 2001. So far, 3-4 private railway firms from the mainland China said they have strong interest in investing in this project even though they haven't made an official announcement yet.

Commentary: I hope that they will come up with a budget saving plan to ensure approval from the cabinet However, I haven't heard anything from the Council of State about the decision on the revival plan and whether it will be subjected to 1992 Joint venture Act. If possible, I would like to see the concession holder by the end of this year.

More Commentary: It would be very nice if SRT will grant the underground sections - the Northwest (R1) and the Southwest (R2) section - to MRTA so that MRTA will construct a linking subway loop. Putting the diesel locomotives underground will result in heavy pollution and prohibitive construction cost. Elevated tracks in the City center are totally unacceptable.

Shake the Rust out of the Hopewell Project

Dr. Samart Ratchapholasit

Manager Daily, Thursday, March 22, 2001

While Bangkokians still face a traffic crisis, the Hopewell project is still abandoned after four years. Many people feel worried whether the concrete-reinforced pillars will be still suitable for the construction since some pillars show rust due to neglect. Such an eyesore has puzzled many Bangkokians and caused cynics to say "we better demolish them right away since they are no use at all!"

Some wonder how the government will deal with this matter after termination of the contract with the foreign owner of this project. There still litigation between SRT and Mr. Woo, but no one seems to care about this matter.

The previous government still kept reviewing the project routes and the money allocation for the project as well as holding public hearings to follow the 59th Article of 1997 Thai Constitution.

No one heard any progress about the project revival until Mr. Weera Musikaphong (Black Pearl of the South) became the Director of SRT Board. Mr. Weera said he'll do his best to revive the Hopewell project during his term and let a private term handle the project. He implies the government considers that the project is worthy to revive since it can relive traffic problems. Such a thought is right! It is worthy to go ahead!

If you can remember, the Hopewell project is a 4-in-1 project since it has an expressway at the top, skytrain on the left and right of the middle level, elevated railroad at the center of the middle level and the local roads on the bottom (Kamphaengphet 4 Road - Kamphaengphet 7 Road). The local roads were completed for the 13th Asian Games (December 1998) to carry both people (public transport) and cars (private transport). Many people feel puzzled why the Chatchai government decided to approve such a mammoth project in the first place. Why let the expressways compete with skytrains? Even though the government is supposed to promote public transport the private transport via expressway will suck all the passengers from the public transport and render public transport worthless.

Nowadays, Donmuang tollways and Northern Bangkok Expressway have already rendered the proposed expressways and Hopewell skytrain not worthy of further investment. However, at that time there was a land bubble so such a mammoth project was conceived to create real estate development around the area along the project and turn some areas into profit-making ventures.

Since the bubble burst the revived project had to be cut down anyway. The expressways will be scrapped without opposition. Only SRT and the revived Hopewell Skytrain would survive. (Local Roads are already built.) SRT trains will pick the passengers from faraway rural areas to feed the Hopewell skytrain which will run around the city. However, investing in two projects at the same time during the economic depression like today will definitely put heavy constraints on the government budget. It is nearly impossible to ask the private sector to invest in this gigantic project since it is quite unprofitable for them.

Some will come up with turnkey projects -> private sectors invest first and then government will pay them back which will avoid public debts from government borrowing. Sounds good, but NOT so good! Why? Because private borrowing is much more costly than the direct government borrowing--shorter grace periods and higher interest rates.

If the government REALLY wants to revive the project, it will have to borrow directly--not 100% direct private investment or turnkey! Public investment on structure and private investment on services and rolling stock may be the best answer available.

MRTA Subway and BTSC Skytrain are waiting for the government to bail them out of trouble with their extensions since their tracks are from City to City, not Suburbs to City or City to Suburbs which will carry less passengers than expected. Therefore, the government will have to think twice about mass transit investment. It is next to impossible to invest on Hopewell, BTSC and MRTA at the same time. They have to think which lines will make the best returns in financial and economic terms.

If they see Hopewell as the best option since it feeds the Skytrain and Subway with passengers from the suburbs, avoid the crosses between the railways and the roads, and there are several leftover pillars, the government better goes forward for this project without hesitation or wasting more time and money on the reviews. Nevertheless, the elevated railroads will be done first and the Hopewell skytrain will follow since it will save lots of money if they invest one by one, not all at the same time.

If they still see Hopewell as worthy project, please revive it by get all the rust out of the pillars NOW!

March, 2001 - Commentary: NAP (New Aspiration Party - political party in the ruling coalition) now controls MOTC and will try very hard to revive Hopewell, but they haven't come out with their plan yet. Probably, they have to see Suvannabhum Airport (Nong Ngoo Hao Airport) finished first before making a consideration on the Hopewell revival since they want to link the Hopewell line to the new airport.

One way to deal with this matter is to construct section by section e.g. from Phyathai to Suvannabhum Airport and from Rangsit to Bangsue since this section is far from the city center (not subject to the rule of elevated rail prohibition). The only catch is that it requires constructing two depots. However, the resolution for this matter is to construct with rail links that allow Hopewell rail to enter into the Skytrain and subway railway so they can use those depots to park their rolling stock if there still have some space left. This would save lots of money on depot construction.

Hopewell Pillars Turn Rusty
Deterioration beyond Repair Approaching
Dailynews, February 13, 2001
Baan Muang, February 15, 2001

Pillars left over from the abandoned Hopewell project have turned rusty which will deteriorate the structure until it cannot be used for northern extension of Skytrain. OCMLT will ask SRT to use a lime mixture to prevent rust from eating the steel reinforcement.

Pol. Maj. Yongyut Sarasombut (OCMLT's Secretariat) said he made an appointment with BMA, SRT, and BTSC to discuss the northern extension of the Skytrain. OCMLT wants to follow the Hopewell line since it was cheaper to build from the abandoned pillars while BMA wants to follow Phaholyothin Road which has much more population density than Vibhavadee Highway area. However, the contract between SRT and Hopewell (Thailand) Co.Ltd. made it impossible to let BTSC construct the extension. If SRT and Hopewell (Thailand) Co.Ltd. could revise an agreement, it could result in lots of benefit for the nation and the people.

Thailand will suffer from the abandoned projects because it has become an eyesore. Therefore, it would economical to use the Hopewell structure for the northern extension of the Skytrain. If the revival becomes a reality, it would be necessary to get rid of the rust first. Therefore, he asks SRT to pour lime mixture to cover the steel rods and the broken concrete.

Digging Hopewell out of the Graveyard
Wijitraphan Ready to Strike a Deal
Revive the Pillar Monuments by Reducing to Three Elevated Systems
Transport and Travel, Journal Vol. 4, No. 167, August 21-27, 2000

     The plan to revive Hopewell project started November 26, 1999 when MOTC and SRT appointed Team Consulting Engineering and Management Co.Ltd, L.E.K. Co. Ltd., J.M.P. (Thailand) Co. Ltd., Edicon Corporation Ltd. to make a feasibility study in eight months. At the conclusion, the consultancy group will deliver the details to SRTto hold a seminar about other relating issues.
     The group told MOTC to revive Hopewell by reducing it to three systems. The construction will be all elevated routes. Government will invest in civil engineering, rolling stock, and signals (about 28 billion) and the service sector will be covered by private firms.
     The consultants concluded that the government needs to invest 40-70 billion baht on the civil engineering construction while the private sector will invest on the rolling stocks and the signals. SRT has concluded that the best systems will consist of three elevated rail systems--electric trains, new commuter trains, and SRT mass rapid transit system from Don Muang to Hua Mark. This will result in three rail systems, commuter, express commuter, and mass rapid transit system in the Northern-Southern route (Rangsit-Yommarat-Hua Lamphong), Western route (Bangsue-Rama VI) and Eastern route (Yommarat-Hua Mark) with the total distance of 43.5 km.
     For the rail systems, they will consist of 4 routes such as (1) Northern line (Don Muang-Yommarat) with 4 pairs of railways and 2 pairs of mass rapid transit rails (2) Western line (Bangsue-Rama VI-Talingchan) with 2 pairs of railways and 2 pairs of mass rapid transit rails (3) Eastern line (Yommarat - Hua Mark) with 2 pairs of railways and 2 pairs of mass rapid transit rails (4) Southern line (Yommmarat-Hua Lamphong) with 2 pairs of railways and 2 mass rapid transit rails. The first phase will be the Northern and Eastern line due to their critical links to BTSC and MRTA. The construction will consist of 2 pairs of railways and 2 pairs of mass rapid transit rails. Additional 1 or 2 pairs of railways will be constructed if necessary.
     For the construction choice, the consultants suggests that they should be all elevated lines since all elevated lines are the cheapest choice (26 billion baht) and Thai engineers as well as Thai contractors can deal with the elevated lines without problems. The underground tunnels require special expertise from foreign engineers and contractors, complicate the construction process, and add more budget to deal with (50.3 billion baht for all underground lines and 35.41 billion baht for partially underground lines). The investment cost for all systems will be 77.8 billion baht and the economic benefit will be 33%. The consultants propose that it should be a turnkey project run by a single private group. SRT will ask the government to invest 40-70 billion baht on civil engineering matters while the private sector invests 28 billion baht on rolling stock, signals, and services.
     The fare rate should start at 10 baht and increase 1 baht for each kilometer passengers travel. The fare rate should be increase 3% a year according to the inflation rate. The construction will start in 2001, the rolling stock will start in 2005 and the system will open for service in 2006 with a 30-year concession.
     Once the plan is settled, there will be a public hearing on September 2, 2000. Then MOTC will send the plan to the committee before sending to the cabinet to get final approval. If approved, they will consider the budget before signing a concession deal.
     Mr. Pradit Phattharaprasitm Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) said the Hopewell has dragged on MOTC for a long time. MOTC tried so hard to tackle the problems, but the Joint Venture Act of 1992 slowed down the process by ensuring project transparency. The consultants have sent the preliminary plan to MOTC, and MOTC will sent a committee to deal with the plan before sending it to the cabinet. If the government has to deal with the construction, it will borrow money to deal with it while signal and service will be done by private sectors. If the revival plan become a clear plan, the Wichitraphan Group (a construction giant) will be ready to deal with it.
     As for the earlier BTS plan to ask Chinese investors to deal with the Hopewell revival plan, the Chinese investors declined to comment, and BTSC is now concentrating on the three new Skytrain extensions proposed by Samak instead.
     Commentary: The government should check their coffers and the press should check if the private sector mentioned in this article actually have strong interest in the project.
     Since the Southern and Western section of Hopewell project has been rerouted, it would be a good chance for MRTA to create a circle line linking all 3 Bangkok railway stations together - Hua Lamphong, Wongwian Yai and Bangkok Noy. However, MRTA should ask SRT and OCMLT about this issue after finishing the Blue and Orange lines.

The New Hopewell Project
Thansetthakij, Vol. 20, No. 1506, July 20-22, 2000

Sarawut Breaking Hopewell Impasses/Opening the Turnkey Projects for Private Sectors
     Mr. Sarawut Thammasiri, SRT Director, said SRT is going to deal with rail tracks and an electrical train while scrapping the expressways and local road portions of the Hopewell Project.
     The revival projects will be a turnkey projects - the private sector deals with construction and finds financial institutes to cover all the construction expenses while the government will pay back creditors later.
     The private sector will run the long and short distance railway service. If profit is inadequate to cover the loan, the government may pay the debt though the annual budget.
     The preliminary budget for the first section of the revival project (Rangsit-Bangsue) will be 37 billion baht (US$ 925 million) - the abandoned concrete structure (13.77% of project) whose cost is 6-7 billion baht (US$ 150-175 million) is not included in this figure.
Connecting to Existing Systems
     Regarding the possibility of connecting the system (electrical rolling stock) with the BTS Skytrain, there should be no problem since the MRTS will use the same 1.435-meter standard gauge.  Nevertheless, other technical problems will be under consideration. The rolling stocks for the systems are up to the company that obtains the concession.
Problems to consider
     For the western extension via Wongwian Yai, SRT and OCMLT are studying the feasibility. There are lots of problems to deal with.
     The western extension will pass though Rattanakosin Island (Bangkok center) so digging the tunnel from Hua Lamphong to connect with Wongwian Yai Station is necessary even though it will create astronomical cost for SRT.  Furthermore, SRT rolling stocks are diesel engine, so it would create lots of air pollution from heavy fume in the tunnel if the tunnel project became a reality. Therefore, SRT will opt to construct the western extension from Bangsue to Talingchan via Rama VI and then extend to Thonburi Railway Station (Bangkok Noy Station) and Nakhon Pathom.
     For the line to Nonthaburi, it should belong to other system (e.g. the Northern extension of MRTA Blue line or Purple line) or feeder lines.
     SRT proposes a commuter line from Rungsit to Ongkharak, Nakhon Nayok by constructing it along elevated tracks along Rangsit Phatthana Canal since there are lots of people living in northern and eastern Bangkok suburbs.  However, budget constraints put such an idea on the hold.
No Problem with Woo/Scrapping the Expressway and New Roads
     The litigation which Hopewell's CEO Gordon Woo is going to file against SRT cannot derail the revival project. For the expressways in the original plan, SRT decided to scrap it since Donmuang Tollway, Rama IX Expressway and Pakkret-Bangsai Expressway have rendered the Hopewell Expressway unnecessary. No more new local roads (built under and alongside the Hopewell site) will be built since their proximity to older roads have created traffic gridlock and poor road design could creates lots of accidents and head-on collisions.
     Eventually, the Hopewell network will consist of the mass transit from Donmuang to Hua Mark, the commuter from Rungsit to Hua mark, with an extension to Nong Ngoo Hao Airport.

Plan to Revive Hopewell Sucks 26 billion baht from Government
&
Hopewell Co. Ltd. to Sue Government for 20 billion baht Compensation
News about the Hopewell revival plan from Travel and Transport Journal (English language -> www.telcomjournal.com/indexe.html Thai language-> www.telcomjournal.com) issue July 10-16, 2000
     Mr. Sarawut Thammasiri, SRT Governor, said that the consulting companies are going to conclude the results of a study to downsize the revival plan as much as they can and save as much money as possible.
     The critical point is at the structure from for the Chitladda section (Bangsue - Makkasan). The form the sturcture takes will need to get cabinet approval and the method of investment will have an effect on the time schedule. If the government is ready to pay for all the construction costs, SRT will be able to design the structure within 1 year.
     The structure of the Chitladda section carries heavy effects on the investment cost. The proposed forms of construction will be as follows:
     1) All elevated sections from Bangsue to Makkasan via Chitladda Palace -> 26 billion baht (US$ 520 million)
     2) All underground sections from Bangsue to Makkasan via Chitladda Palace, with an underground tunnel to go across Chaophraya River -> 50.3 billion baht (US$ 1,257.5 million)
     3) A subway line with elevated railway track from Bangsue to Makkasan via Chitladda Palace -> 35.410 billion baht (US$ 885.25 million)
     The consultants said the SRT should use the first proposal (elevated tracks from Bangsue to Makkasan via Chitladda) since it is the cheapest deal for the government. Economic constraints make it prohibitive to have the luxurious underground tunnels. The first proposal may create an eyesore or visual pollution since Hopewell project is not subject to the stringent regulation imposed by the Cabinet resolution of May 17, 1994 which requires all the mass transit to be subway lines within 25 sq. km. around the City Center. The designer plans to adjust the elevated track design to minimize the visual impact.
     For the investment plan, the government should invest in the construction of the tracks, rail systems, and signals. Private sectors should invest in rolling stock and service management while paying tolls to the government. If it goes as the above plan, the financial benefit will be 18%. If the private sector has to invest in the signal systems in addition to the rolling stocks and service management, the financial benefit will be 16%.
     The consultant said if the government decides to construct the project all in subway form (Rungsit-Yommaraj-Hua Lamphong and Yommaraj-Hua Mark), the price tag for the construction will be 89 billion baht (US$ 2.225 billion) and another 53 billion baht (US$ 1.325 billion) -> total 142 billion baht (US$ 3.55 billion) -> enough to construct another Bangkok International Airport! NESDB said the Hopewell revival project is one of the troublesome projects and may not pass the NESDB approval.
     The consultants must finish the studies by September 2000 since there will be a public hearing on August 26, 2000 to acquire more information. The preliminary result will be finished to be ready for preliminary cabinet approval around July 2001.
     If the government plans to construct the track and allow the private sector to run the service, it will cause Hopewell to ask if it can invest in the revival plan. If there is litigation between Hopewell and the government, other private companies will feel reluctant to invest in the revival plan. The ministry of transportation will have to decisively deal with these problems.
     So far, Hopewell has sent a notice asking SRT to pay 20 billion baht compensation--interest and lost opportunity cost not included--to the company. Hopewell claims that the company has done no wrong so the government cannot terminate the contract. Hopewell asked SRT to respond within 30 days; otherwise, Hopewell will sue SRT.
     SRT came to see the Supreme Attorney General since the Attorney General is a lawyer for SRT. SRT said Hopewell would sue for the same old reasons which Hopewell had claimed several times. However, Hopewell has made the claim official by publishing the notice. Nevertheless, the Hopewell claim is a civil litigation which requires negotiation at the civil court. A civil case has no effect on the ongoing revival plan since it is in the feasibility studies on the structure and investment form. If Hopewell is ongoing to sue SRT, SRT will sue back Hopewell to pay SRT 120 billion baht (US$ 3 billion) compensation.
     So far, the SRT had received 2,850 million baht (US$ 71.25 million) in contract payments in cash and the underwriting notes issued by Bangkok Bank PCL which has the value of 500 million (US$ 12.5 million). The total payment SRT received is 3,350 million baht (US$ 83.75 million). The contract termination notes said the government reserves the right to ask the company which fails to finish the project on time to pay compensation to the government.
     Mr. Gordon Who has admitted that the project cannot finished on time due to the real estate downturn and the low ticket fees which cut much of the financial benefit of the project. The depreciation of the baht pushed the construction cost not less than 15% from the 80 billion baht initial cost (then US$ 3.2 billion, now US$ 2 billion) and forced loan sources to review the project. After the termination of the project, Hopewell tried to get compensation from the government but failed.

Eight Rules Concerning the Conservation of Chitladda Royal Railway Station
from Thaipost, April 27, 2000

      National Environment Board seeks to preserve Chitladda Royal Railway Station (hereafter referred to as Royal Station) by imposing guidelines that a revived Hopewell Project must be underground when it passes past Chitladda Palace at Chitladda Station. (Note: Chitladda Station is a historic train station adjacent to the Royal Compound. An elevated station would disrespectfully tower above the area and cause security and privacy concerns.)
     Mr. Pan Phuengsujarit, a deputy speaker of Prime Minister Office, said the National Environment Board has made a resolution for the revived Bangkok Elevated Train Project around Chitladda Palace Royal Railway Station by imposing eight rules:
1) Keep the Royal Railway Station intact as a place for the royal attendance. The station must become a museum.
2) The mass transit lines around the Royal Station must be subway lines.
3) The railway line for the Royal Carriage must be at the ground level close to the platform of the Royal Station.
4) The transit lines must be in covered trenches topped with growing grass to make a small area for public recreation.
5) Vines should be grown on the walls of any open trenches.
6) Underground lines should extend beyond the northern and southern section of the Royal Station - probably from Yommarat Station to Samsen Station.
7) The covered trench area must be designed to be in harmony with the Royal Station and for Royal Passage.
8) The platform must be extended in both northern and southern directions.

Chitralada Station Underpass
from The Nation, April 27, 2000
    The National Environment Board (NEB) yesterday agreed with the proposal to require the Hopewell elevated railway project to go underground when passing the Royal Chitladda station, deputy government spokesman Pan Phuengsujarit said. (Note: Chitladda Station is a historic train station adjacent to the Royal Compound. An elevated station would disrespectfully tower above the area and cause security and privacy concerns.)
    The proposal was made by a committee of the NEB, which studied the project after the Cabinet agreed to revive it. Hopewell has since abandoned the project. The government has yet to call bids for a new contractor to continue the construction.
    Pan said the NEB also agreed with the proposal to make Chitralada station a museum after the new railway is built.

Hopewell Plans
from Matichon Daily, March, 2000

      The government is considering about the plan to link BTSC with the suspended Hopewell projects since both projects use the standard 1.435-meter gauge. If it is feasible to do so, it will enable the Skytrain to gain many more passengers from the Rangsit and Hua Mark area and be a great boon for the company.  Mr. Pradit Phattharaprasit (Deputy minister of Transportation and Communication) is responsible for this Hopewell revival plan. The minister has met with the BTSC, Siemens, Bank of China and Shanghai Metro to discuss the Hopewell revival plan.  According to the plan, the government will have to carry the construction cost of 60 billion baht (about US$ 1.5 billion) but the Bank of China will lend a cheap loan (1.5% interest) with a grace period (interest free) for 5 year. The company will ask for 50-year concession for the Hopewell project and it will take 3-4 years to finish.
      The company will invest about 230 billion baht (about US$ 5.75 billion) in this revival project.  For the Hopewell tollway fee, the passenger will pay a 30 baht flat rate. For the elevated train from Rangsit to Huamark, the passengers will pay 10 baht for the initial fee and an additional 1 baht/km fee - up to 40 baht for a line. The line will go along the proposed routes (Rangsit-Yommarat, Yommarat-Hua Mark, Yommarat-Hua Lamphong and Maenam line -> to Port Authority of Thailand).

Timetable for reviving the Hopewell Line - December 1, 1999

The committee said the Northern, the Eastern and the Southern Routes will be the same as before. However, the Western Route will be changed from Yommarat-Phan Fah Bridge-Thonburi Station-Taling Chan to Yommarat-Rama VI Bridge-Bang Kruay-Talingchan to avoid entering into the Rattanakosin area (Bangkok Center).

Only the SRT Elevated Tracks and the Local Road survive the severe reduction. The new project will consist of 2 major sections:
1) Northern Route (Rangsit-Donmuang, Donmuang-Bangsue, and Bangsue-Yommarat), Eastern Route (Yommarat-Hua Mark), and Mae Nam Route (Makkasan-Maenam Station)
2) Southern Route (Hua Lamphong-Wongwian Yai and Phonimit) and Western Route (Bangsue-Rama VI Bridge-Talingchan).  The Southern Route (Hua Lamphong-Wongwian Yai) will be an underground line.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communication has considered the option of having the public sector invest in the construction and the private sector invest in railway services. However, further consideration (about how many tracks for the SRT and what private firm would be in charge of services) is needed before getting cabinet approval. The Ministry of Transportation and Communication has received US$1-1.5 million loan from KFW Bank (Germany) and 103 million baht loan from OECF (Japan) to deal with the Hopewell revival.

The plan will follow the 1992 Joint Venture between Public and Private Sectors Act which will need to follow this schedule:
Feb. - Apr. 1999 : hiring a consultant company to study the feaibility of the project, including engineering studies
Sep. 1999 - Apr. 2000 : consultant company begins to study feasibility of project, including environmental impact
Apr. - Oct. 2000 : selecting a company to design the project
Nov. 2000 - Dec. 2001 : consultant company designs the project
Jan. 2001 - Nov. 2001 : finding investors for the project and sigining of contracts
Dec. 2002 - Apr. 2006 : construction
Apr. - Sep. 2006 : testing period
Oct. 2006 : open for public service

More Hopes for the Hopewell Project - November, 1999
Jaturas [Square] Weekly, November 15-21, 1999

Mr. Kheeree Kanjanaphak (the former controlling owner of the BTS Skytrain project) is trying to get China's help to revive Hopewell via TMRT Co. Ltd. China said they will invest in the construction section. Another Chinese company thinking of investing is Extra K Co. Ltd. from Hong Kong. This company is "supported" by Gordon Woo, the original owner and contractor of the Hopewell project. However, the Chinese government has not yet sent financial proposals to Minister of Transportation and Communication and State Railway of Thailand.

Under the current plan (proposed by the State Railway of Thailand) to revive the project, the elevated rail project will go north, south and east. The western leg will become a subway line and cost 2.5 times higher than the elevated version.

China Asked to Help - September, 1999

In September, 1999, PM Chuan Leekpai asked Chinese President Jiang Zemin to take over the project and resume construction. Under the latest revised plan, the line would be extended to the New Bangkok International Airport (Nong Ngoo Hao Airport) to the east of Bangkok. The northern leg would have a transfer station at the MRTA Blue Line Subway (at Rama IX intersection) and the eastern leg would have a transfer station where it crosses the BTS Skytrain route (at Phyathai Intersection). The southern and western sections would be scrapped altogether.


The Hopewell Project
Read the Story of what happened
Catch up on the Latest News
See the Map of the project
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