Two French firms keen on high-speed rail

Two French firms keen on high-speed rail

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presides over the 'Transforming Thailand-France Partnership' seminar in Paris. (Photo Government House)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presides over the 'Transforming Thailand-France Partnership' seminar in Paris. (Photo Government House)

Two French companies, Transdev Group and SNCF Group, are in talks with Charoen Pokphand Group to set up a business partnership for the high-speed railway connecting three airports, including management of the Airport Rail Link, a combined project worth of 224 billion baht, says the Industry Ministry.

Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana talked to media yesterday about the Thai delegation's trip to Britain and France. Transdev, an international private operator of public transport, and SNCF, a state-owned railway, met with the government's team in Paris last week to express their intentions regarding the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.

Thai representatives also met Michelin Group officials because the French tyre maker wants to expand its aviation tyre operations into the EEC.

In Britain, Thai officials spoke to Rolls-Royce executives interested in investment in the EEC for a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hub at U-tapao airport.

"The corridor, mainly for the aviation sector, has been in the spotlight of overseas companies, and they aim to invest in many infrastructure projects such as water management, energy management and smart cities," Mr Uttama said. "Investors from both countries are going to visit the EEC provinces next month."

He said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered a new committee to take charge of the massive investment plans from overseas to facilitate every step of the process.

Last week, Gen Prayut and top officials held a roadshow in Europe to meet with government leaders and executives, update them on the Thai political situation and talk up investment opportunities in Thailand.

In related news, the MRO centre, a joint venture of Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) and European aeronautical giant Airbus, is expected to begin development at once after the two parties signed an agreement in principle last week.

The venture is expected to start operating within the next four years.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said Airbus announced a human resources training project, which can commence after THAI organises a board meeting for approval of the partnership.

"The project is a flagship of the Aerotropolis at U-tapao airport, while the government expects the country to become a hub of aviation," Mr Somkid said, adding that many foreign nations are now keen to invest in the Aerotropolis and MRO hub.

The project will be one of the most modern and extensive in the Asia-Pacific region, offering heavy maintenance and line services for all widely used aircraft types.

The facility will feature the latest digital technology to analyse aircraft maintenance data, as well as advanced inspection techniques, including the use of drones to monitor aircraft airframes.

The MRO hub will also have specialised repair shops, including for composite structures, as well as a maintenance training centre offering extensive courses for technical personnel from Thailand and overseas.

Guillaume Faury, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said the MRO hub will further strengthen the long-term partnership between Airbus and THAI and contribute to the success of the EEC.

He predicts the number of aircraft operated by carriers in the Asia-Pacific region to more than double over the next 20 years, from 6,100 to 17,000, with an additional requirement to train 230,000 engineers and technicians over the same period.

Over the past 10 years, 190 projects by French businesses worth €625 million were granted investment privileges by the Board of Investment.

Mr Somkid said the latest official trip was meaningful to Thai politics and economic development, as it showed that Thailand is acceptable to the EU after four years of scepticism.

French President Emmanuel Macron accepted an invitation to take part in the Asean Summit meeting to be held in Thailand next year, the deputy prime minister said.

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