Trends in rail and transit - Asia 2017

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The Rail & Transit market in Asia is characterized by the diversity of institutional frameworks, conditions of existing infrastructure and contract procurement models in different countries.

Sophisticated Clients in Mature Markets

Due to heavy daily operations, infrastructure and railway system assets are facing an ageing problem, imposing imminent threats of reliability and service level deterioration. MTR in Hong Kong and Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore have launched a series of initiatives to address the problem, from asset condition assessment and asset replacement/renewal to staff training. Substantial budgets have been set aside for these, as well as for repair and maintenance work.

We are thus helping MTR to replace their service transformers and switchgear at the stations and ancillary buildings of Tsuen Wan Line, Kwun Tong Line, Island Line and Tseung Kwan O Line, which were commissioned for service between 1980s and late 1990s. In Singapore, LTA has retained us to assess the conditions of stations and tunnels as well as railway system assets of four MRT lines and two LRT lines, and to help LTA plan for the assets renewal/replacement programme. 

Countries Eager to Build Their First System

Poor transportation infrastructure is one of the main bottlenecks to the economic development of less mature countries in the region, such as Vietnam and Sri Lanka where people have been waiting for the convenience of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) systems. Thanks to financing from multi-lateral development banks (MDB), in particular after the establishment of Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), many MRT system projects are in the pipeline. However, the project owner will procure consultancy services of feasibility studies, programme management and design under particular financier’s policies, restricting the eligibility to tender in some cases.

Taking a major role in a consortium, we were the General Consultant of Hochiminh City Line 1 in Vietnam, the first MRT system of the country financed by Japan’s JICA, to be put into service in 2019. In Sri Lanka, we are providing design and design management services to the EPC contractor, a Chinese state-owned company, to build the 26 km long Southern Railway Matara – Beliatta Extension. This is the first new railway extension since the country proclaimed independence from a British colony in 1948. 

Upgrading Existing Network to Meet Ridership Growth

As a result of economic growth, demand for a seamlessly integrated MRT network is soaring along with the revitalization of municipalities. The selection of station locations, railway alignment, efficient interchange between lines, expandability of the system, and sustainability of the technologies to be deployed will need to be carefully planned. Depending on the project financing arrangement of respective governments, PPP and BOT concessions are the models commonly adopted for these MRT projects. 

In Thailand, we are helping the operator of the Bangkok Transit System to bid the Design-Build-Operate contract of two monorail lines, with a 30-year operation concession for the first monorail system to be added to the city’s MRT network. In Malaysia, the government is also ambitious to rejuvenate the network of Kuala Lumpur. With two LRT line extension projects completed in 2016, the first MRT line will also be open for full-scale service in July 2017, whereas the construction of a second MRT line just started in the fall of 2016. And a third LRT line is currently under design. 

The rail and transit market in Asia is strong and stimulating. Older systems need to be assessed and maintained, and new projects are coming to help in answering the growing demand.

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