Thailand: Siemens Trains its Sights on Rail Travel

June 06--Singapore: Germany's Siemens AG engineering and electronics conglomerate still sees opportunity in rail connectivity in Thailand despite the recent turmoil.

Michel Obadia, Asean-Pacific chief executive for infrastructure and cities, said while Bangkok's infrastructure is good, the network outside the capital is weak, and this is the area that Siemen is interested in.

"If the [2-trillion-baht infrastructure investment] plan is restarted, Siemens will be interested in the high-speed rail and all future mass transit extensions within Bangkok as well as intercity rail projects," he said.

And despite the current situation, Siemens will proceed with its contracts with the State Railway of Thailand for a dual-track rail system for some intercity lines. The company is also in the process of tendering for systems service contracts for the skytrain and subway extensions.

The company could also provide additional trains for the Airport Rail Link and the skytrain.

At the World Cities Summit held here from June 1-4, the company introduced a report entitled "The Mobility Opportunity", researched in conjunction with the London-based Credo Business Consulting LLP, highlighting challenges for economies all over the world in developing transport infrastructures.

The report explored transport networks in 35 major cities worldwide including Bangkok and assessed how the cities were preparing to meet future challenges.

"It is aimed at stimulating discussion about public investment and attempts to quantify the value that can be created through proper urban planning, because cities are drivers of economic growth," said Roland Busch, global chief executive for infrastructure and cities.

The report said Bangkok's transport network had reasonable capacity, while plans to accommodate future growth were in place. But challenges include the growing number of commuters in the capital, who are expected to hit 2 million by 2030.

"One of the challenges for Bangkok is the scale of commuter growth and difficulty in raising capacity to take into account that growth," said Chris Molloy, managing partner at Credo.

He said the current system relied heavily on road transport, and there was no capacity left to support more road transport systems.

"Due partly to the political situation, the planning cycle is unreliable, so proposed plans have either not come to fruition or been delayed. Also, the plans that have been made are not sufficient to meet the challenges," said Mr Molloy.

"This is slightly odd, because once investments have been made [in the past], they've been highly successful such as the skytrain."

He said the short-term solution was to create a centralised and organised bus rapid transit system that created additional capacity within its road network.

"At present, the system is very fragmented, consisting of a lot companies, and if it can be pull together and properly managed. It can increase both the quality and the capacity of the bus network," said Mr Molloy.

"The long-term solution is greater investment in light-rail and metro systems."

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