AT A MEETING in Bangkok on May 9, State Railway of Thailand Governor Chitsanti Dhanasobhon was given 30 days to report back to the transport and finance ministers with a plan to turn round SRT’s financial performance.

Senior managers had put forward plans that envisaged SRT’s 44bn baht debt being written off, but this was unacceptable. Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jungrunreangkit accused SRT of not making best use of its assets. He suggested that the railway’s land portfolio could generate up to 60bn baht a year from rent rather than the 2bn it received last year, when SRT’s loss amounted to 6·5bn baht.

The ministry had come up with its own restructuring plan, which entailed splitting SRT into four business units: freight, passenger, maintenance services and property management. These would be structured so that they could be sold off in the future when performance improved.

In the meantime a consultant has suggested that railway land in Bangkok could be developed to fund future light rail or metro routes. One proposal is to develop a conference and exhibition centre at Makkasan, where the site is considered to have major commercial potential.