Thailand’s railway system needs to be reformed, as persistent administrative problems have prevented improvements for the past five years and there are no solutions in sight, said an academic with the Thailand Development Research Institute.
The TDRI says the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is sluggish with both procedures and the implementation of its regulations, which are among the main problems affecting the quality of the Kingdom’s railways. The public sector should have clear policies on improving the rail system and its operation, while ensuring proper monitoring of the necessary investments to ensure transparency.
Sumet Ongkittikul, research director for transport and logistics policy at the TDRI, said most of the government’s investment plans for upgrading the railway system were clear, but if the public organisations charged with carrying out the projects are not up to the task, this could cause delays.
He said the public sector should work to lower the debts of the SRT, which now exceeded Bt100 billion. To that end, it should have four main objectives.
First, he suggested a decentralisation plan, separating investments from rail services, while setting up a company to oversee the investment on the basic structure, partly funded by the government. It should also establish goals to improve the quality of the administration process.
Second, an independent organisation should be set up to manage, monitor, and assign state responsibility for the investments in infrastructure projects, similar to Austria’s SCHIG (Rail-way Infrastructure Services Company).
The third objective would be a reform plan to lower the debts of companies or state enterprises related to the railway system by making their financial status more sustainable by finding new ways to make profits.
The fourth and last objective is to allow the private sector to help manage the railway system to increase the quality of its services.
First published: The Nation, September 17, 2014