You wouldn’t know there was a cataclysmic financial disaster throughout the world’s largest continent solely by judging the public transport activity. On the king’s 72nd birthday, Bangkok opened its first metro line called the Skytrain, and officials there announced the government is looking to expand the investment well beyond the three projects begun prior to the collapse of the Thai baht, which some say triggered the regional crisis.
In fact, talks are underway to restart the collapsed Bangkok Elevated Rapid Transit System (BERTS), a combined toll road and metro project. Thai officials are eyeing the apparent construction success of the Skytrain to determine whether they can use it as a model for restarting BERTS. Meanwhile, the underground metro project is proceeding with a revenue opening date of the initial 20 km segment slated for 2000.
Earlier this year, Guangzho, China, just north of Hong Kong, opened its first metro line. The 11-mile line, mostly underground, was built by Siemens on a turnkey basis, just as Bangkok’s Skytrain. Kuala Lumpur also awarded a contract to Siemens to build a high-speed rail link to its airport. And ALSTOM is building the world’s first automated regional express rail line for Singapore.
Manila is looking to restart its suspended second LRT line, and several cities in India are on the verge of announcing light rail schemes. "In Asia alone, the market for track-bound transport systems will increase annually by 4%," said Hans-Dieter Bott, group vice president of Siemens Transportation Systems. "By 2002, the volume will have reached approximately 8 billion euros [US $8 billion]."
However, Japan and Indonesia are still struggling economically.