France’s Alstom is considering a plan to build a manufacturing facility for train components in Thailand as the global production base in a move to grow its presence and sharpen competitiveness against arch rival Siemens.
Didier Farez, the president of Alstom (Thailand) Ltd, said the company has been approached by the Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA) to consider the project and is in discussion with potential local partners.
“It will take about one year to finalise the plan,” said Mr Farez, adding that the facility in Thailand would serve not only the Thai market but also exports.
The French rail leader also dabbles in power generation and transmission and operates manufacturing facilities in Indonesia, China and India.
Its train-related projects in Thailand include developing tracks for the MRTA’s Blue Line and supplying diesel locomotives to the State Railway of Thailand.
Siemens AG earlier announced a partnership with a Khon Kaen company to assembly passenger coaches in Thailand.
Germany’s Siemens has also worked with leading universities here to develop the country’s first master’s degree in rail engineering to produce qualified personnel for the industry, currently in short supply.
Yesterday, Alstom signed a five-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kasetsart University’s engineering faculty to develop students in engineering fields for both the power and transport sectors. The goal is to produce 1,000 engineers during the five years.
KU will introduce a bachelor’s-degree programme in rail engineering, the first of its kind in Thailand, next semester. It hopes for 40 graduates a year.
KU students will have the opportunity to enrich their technical knowledge and experience through on-the-job training at selected Alstom operations in Asia.
Jerome de Grandmaison, the vice-president for human resources in Asia, said Alstom signed similar agreements earlier in China and India. The MoU includes a student exchange between Alstom’s Asia graduate programmes, enabling the best students to be exposed to different projects in other countries.
Assoc Prof Thanya Kiatiwat, KU’s engineering dean, said the partnership with Alstom will contribute to the development of infrastructure of Thailand and Asean as demand for electricity and rail expansion continues to grow in the region.
Mr Farez said Alstom wants to join bids for the Blue Line and Green Line contracts. The company also targets power projects from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, as local power demand keeps growing.
With reported sales of 20 billion (794 billion baht) in the 2011-12 fiscal year, Alstom employs 92,000 people and operates in 100 countries.