Monday, 16 January 2017

Sapan takes Thailand and UK to the bridge

Thailand must be heading up the hit parade with last week the lilting melody of PM Prayut's Sapan bridge song, and a luk thung melancholia with sad death of Lop Burirat in December.

And (even before the devastating Deep South floods) with Thailand developing its Year of Infrastructure along the road to democracy, as well as overhauling its bus and minivan transport networks, surely UK and Thailand should be working more closely together?

The London Garden Bridge project will undoubtedly be scrapped as wasteful.

But there certainly is plenty of capacity in the Routemaster double-decker bus as well as UK's train and metro cars - and indeed its auto industry recording one of its best years ever must be ideal for the Thai auto parts industry and future space industries.

A Team Thailand through ASEAN and Europe would surely be able to better deliver on key projects:

* ASEANRail linking the Greater Mekong region capitals of Yangon, Bangkok, Phnom Penh and HCMC - already the road and rail links at the Thai-Cambodian border are moving apace and with links to Battambang this year.

* ASEANRail-Yunnan: linking Singapore and the other ASEAN cities through to Yunnan would enable better coordination of China's Silk Road and Belt rail programme - any day now the first Shanghai-London train should be arriving in UK heralding smoother and better trade across Eurasia.

* ASEANRail: Vinh-Vientiane would be part of the programme to tie-in the rail and port network effectively, both for trade and resilience against disasters. Already the long-destroyed Sihanoukville-Phnom Penh route is open - and with the the first tourism cruise ships already docking at the waterfront. Cambodia’s beaches cited by The Sunday Times this week as one of the top 100 tourist attractions – concerning no Thai beaches featuring

* ASEANRail Upgrades: the right behind of tunnel and bridge infrastructure should be coupled with hispeed upgrades, and Digital Railway as well as doubletrack rail - or Thailand would have invested billions simply to be left on the slowtrack. Hardly ideal with Thailand and India as the world's leading rice exporters and mere hours from billions of hungry mouths in China and Africa.

* Deep South Resilience: clearly the floods have washed away much of the existing infrastructure requiring both a rebuild and rethink on the best structures and sites for the future. Relocating San Francisco or even Port-au-Prince from earthquake and storm damage would be problematic, but not necessarily so in improving Thailand's Southern routes.

* ASEAN Bridged: Thailand's infrastructure experience must be relevant for the Philippines and Indonesia and better links through their 7,107 and 13,000 islands and tourism and rice freight industries. Certainly of more use than some of the more fanciful and wasteful Dawei and China-Laos schemes, and the risk of overbuild adding to Climate Change and traffic jams - Ecuador replacing Thailand as the new G77 Chair has much to offer in its eco-work.

All of which dovetail with the Bering overland route, the first Amur bridge now underway between Russia and China, and Cape2Cairo completion through East Africa.

And here in Kent, the final details on the four new Lower Thames Crossing bridge/tunnels are underway around the Ebbsfleet Garden City regeneration and Paramount movies theme park, plus tweaks to Ramsgate and Dover ports. And finalisation of HS2 and HS3 hispeed routes given the success of HS1 in linking Kent to London and Eurasia with the Channel Tunnel.

The latest EU phase of railway reform, as with a Gibraltar tunnel to MENA or wider Sarajevo Shift, only improving such links in a 21st century Europe.

Even the viability of a Scotland-Ireland bridge/tunnel to speed up both tourism and freight and take some of the strain off southern England's ports and road/rail network is raised given the silly fuss of Brexit impacting on Northern Ireland and Eire. And the current government finances in turmoil at Stormont, with RHIGate the most absurd Climate Change scandal of heating empty buildings for profit.

While Thailand must be best-placed to, lead on 21st century initiatives such as zero construction injuries, Corporate Social Responsibility and Climate Change actions.

Already Thai Tourism is stepping forward on new Waterfront tourism and connecting ASEAN programmes, as well as weddings/honeymoon and medical tourism niches, as a part of Thailand 4.0.

Kent and Thailand's Orchids and silk would be long-standing fashions for those areas too.

With ASEAN50 this year, Sapan bridging Asia and Europe hits all the right notes.

Time for Change

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