A total of 20 key light rail, tram and monorail projects that will together span over 500 km and cover more than 340 stops/stations are planned to be developed in six Southeast Asian countries. These projects are estimated to require an investment of more than $23 billion.
These projects are primarily being or are planned to be funded by the governments of the respective countries and by multilateral agencies. Some projects are also planned to be developed on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.
The major contracts for 14 projects are yet to be awarded and provide significant opportunity for developers, investors, contractors, consultants and technology providers. Currently, Thailand is one of the biggest markets for light rail/tram/monorail systems, followed by Malaysia and the Philippines. The Thai authorities plan to invest more than $8.7 billion in the next seven years.
Thailand: PPP opportunity, but delayed implementation
A total of seven projects covering 232 km and 187 stations are planned to be developed in Thailand. These projects are estimated to require an investment of over $9.2 billion.
Of the upcoming projects, three are monorail projects in Bangkok. These will together span 105 km and cover 92 stations. These projects account for nearly 50 per cent of the total planned investment in light rail transit (LRT) and monorail lines in Thailand.
Two monorail lines, which will span 65 km and cover 53 stations, are under construction. The majority of the contracts have been awarded for these projects. These have been under development since 2018 and are scheduled to be operationalised in 2022-23.
A new monorail line, the Grey Line, was proposed in 2019. It will link Vacharapol in northern Bangkok with Thong Lor in the Sukhumvit business area, and also connect Lumpini Park with the Tha Phra area in Thon Buri. The project will be developed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). The project has been in the BMA pipeline for many years.
Of the total upcoming projects, four projects covering 128 km and 95 stations are planned to be developed as LRT systems. These will require an investment of $4.6 billion.
All these four LRT projects are under planning and will be developed on a PPP basis. The LRT systems planned in Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima and Phuket comprise the development of two to four lines each. However, initially only one line will be developed per system. The development of the remaining lines will depend on the success of the initial line.
All these projects are being developed by the Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA). Table 1 outlines the upcoming LRT and monorail projects in Thailand.
These projects are primarily being or are planned to be funded by the governments of the respective countries and by multilateral agencies.
The following key developments have been recorded in the past year:
- In May 2020, it was announced that construction of the Bangkok MRT Pink Monorail Line was 58.78 per cent complete.
- In May 2020, it was announced that construction of the Bangkok MRT Yellow Monorail Line was 56.6 per cent complete.
- In December 2019, the MRTA’s board agreed to “temporarily halt” the development of the Phuket LRT project and is seeking a further study on the impact across all aspects of the project. The Phuket LRT project was undergoing the environmental impact assessment process as well as selecting investment models. Earlier in the same month, it was announced that the bidding process will begin in mid-2020.
- In September 2019, construction of the Bangkok MRT Grey Monorail Line was proposed.
- In June 2019, the MRTA signed a contract with Chotchinda Consultant Company Limited, Entire Company Limited and A21 Consultant Company Limited to conduct a feasibility study, to design, as well as prepare tender documents for the Nakhon Ratchasima Green LRT Line. The Green Line will span 11.7 km and cover 20 stops. The estimated investment in the Green Line will be around $237 million.
Although Thailand offers the maximum investment and development opportunities in the region, its projects, except for the projects in Bangkok, have been under planning for many years. For instance, development of the Khon Kaen LRT has been under study since 2015. In January 2018, the Government of Thailand reaffirmed its plans to develop four LRT projects – the Chiang Mai LRT, Khon Kaen LRT, Phuket LRT, and Nakhon Ratchasima LRT. In December 2019, the government halted the Phuket LRT project.
Malaysia: Ambitious plans without concrete timelines
A total of five LRT and monorail projects, which will together span 89 km and cover 80 stations, are planned to be developed at an investment of more than $5.7 billion.
LRT and tram
Of the upcoming projects, three are LRT and tram projects. Together these projects will cover 69 km and 59 stations.
Of these, one project – Kuala Lumpur LRT-3 – is under construction and is expected to be completed by 2023. The majority of the contracts have been awarded for this project.
The Bayan Lepas LRT and George Town Tram Line are planned as part of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP). The Bayan Lepas LRT line will be developed on a priority basis. The SRS Consortium, a joint venture (JV) of Malaysia-based Gamuda Berhad (60 per cent stake), Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd (20 per cent stake), and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd (20 per cent stake), is the project delivery partner. The consortium announced plans to launch tender(s) for the Bayan Lepas LRT in 2020.
Two monorail lines, which will span nearly 20 km and cover 21 stations, are planned to come up in Penang under the PTMP. The investment estimates and the timelines for these projects are yet to be announced. These projects are at a very initial stage. Table 2 outlines the upcoming LRT and monorail projects in Malaysia.
- In February 2020, it was announced that Kuala Lumpur LRT-3 was 27 per cent complete. MRCB-George Kent Sdn Bhd aims to complete more than 40 per cent by the end of 2020.
Penang has a very ambitious plan, but delays and cost overruns are likely to delay the projects under consideration. The state government needs to take the necessary steps to resolve these pending issues to achieve the goals laid out in the master plan.
Philippines: Opportunities limited to Manila
Four projects, which will span 50 km and cover 28 stations, are planned to be developed in Manila at an investment of around $3.8 billion.
The LRT extensions are being developed as a part of the Philippines’ Build, Build, Build plan. These extensions will span 34 km and cover 17 stations at an investment of $2.63 billion.
Two of these extensions are under construction. The majority of the contracts have been awarded for the projects under construction.
One new monorail is planned to be developed in Manila. The project was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board’s Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee (ICC-CabCom) in December 2019, with construction planned to begin by 2021.
Further, plans were announced to develop monorail systems in three other cities, but the projects have not been finalised as yet.
- Balanga Monorail: In May 2018, the local government of Bataan province signed a deal with BYD to build a monorail transit system in Balanga. No further update is available.
- Cebu Monorail: The project is under evaluation by NEDA-ICC. Earlier, an LRT system was planned to be developed, which was later replaced by the monorail project.
- Iloilo Monorail: In June 2018, BYD proposed to develop a monorail project system and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a non-disclosure agreement with the local government to conduct a pre-feasibility study for this proposed monorail project. No further update is available.
The Philippines Department of Transport and Communication (DoTC) is the developer for all the projects. Table 3 outlines the upcoming LRT and monorail lines in the Philippines.
- In March 2020, the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) announced that the construction progress of the LRT-1 Cavite Extension had reached a completion rate of 36.8 per cent since the start of civil works in September 2019.
- In January 2020, the proposal for the Cebu Monorail project was submitted for evaluation to NEDA-ICC.
Over the years, several projects have been announced, but actual development has been limited to Manila.
The overall progress of projects under the Build, Build, Build programme, which was launched in 2016, has been slow.
Further, LRT-6 in Manila has witnessed several delays and the timeline for the line is yet to be announced. In fact, the project also witnessed delays when the Department of Transportation terminated the bidding process for the project in 2018 due to issues regarding alignment and problems along the Aguinaldo Highway and other potential risks. A modified proposal for the development of a project approximately 23.5 km in length and consisting of nine stations continues to be under evaluation.
Indonesia: Approvals pending for planned projects
Around 88 km of the LRT network and 45 stations are planned to be developed at an investment of more than $2.6 billion as part of two projects.
The Greater Jakarta LRT is a major upcoming project. The project is being developed in two phases. PT Adhi Karya is constructing Phase I of the LRT. By the end of 2020, around 82 per cent of work is targeted to be completed. Phase II is yet to take off and presents major opportunities. Further, two new tram systems are planned to come up on Bogor and Semarang. However, the details of these systems are to be announced. Table 4 outlines the upcoming LRT projects in Indonesia.
- In February 2020, the Bogor City Govern-ment finalised the development of a tram system with PT Kereta Api Indonesia (Persero) and PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia. Final approval and funding for the project are yet to be secured.
- In January 2020, the Korea Overseas Infrastructure and Urban Development Corporation and Korea Rail Network Authority signed an MoU with the Government of Indonesia-owned Nindya Karyato to develop an LRT in Bali.
- In January 2020, the mayor of Semarang discussed the technical details of the implementation of a tram system with PT KAI. The project is yet to be finalised and approved.
Currently, there is very little investment opportunity in the region, as approval is still pending for all the three upcoming projects.
Vietnam: Projects at the feasibility study stage
The Hanoi Transport Plan 2030, developed in accordance with Vision 2050 (Master Plan), proposes the development of 10 urban rail lines. Of these, two are planned to be monorail lines and one is planned as a tramline. Around 56.5 km of lines are under planning. The Management Authority for Urban Railways is conducting/preparing to conduct pre-feasibility studies for all the three projects. Table 5 outlines the tram and monorail projects planned in Vietnam.
The Hanoi Transport Plan 2030 was launched in 2017. The city has been planning to develop urban rail lines for more than a decade. So far, the cost of the metro projects has overrun by more than $2.25 billion. There are several reasons for the delay and cost overrun, including slow clearance of land acquisition and funds not being dispersed in a timely manner.
Currently, there are no major investment opportunities, as all the projects are still in the study stage.
The Hanoi Transport Plan 2030 was launched in 2017. The city has been planning to develop urban rail lines for more than a decade.
Cambodia: Evaluating options
In November 2017, the Government of Cambodia announced plans to develop an automatic guideway transit (AGT) system in Phnom Penh. Japan-based Yokohama Seaside Line Company was supposed to provide consulting services to the Public Works and Transport Ministry of Cambodia on AGT operations and management.
In August 2017, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) agreed to provide funding for construction. The feasibility study was completed. As of April 2019, the project was at the discussion stage.
Further, the government has also received expressions of interest from Chinese companies to build a monorail or subway system in Phnom Penh. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is looking into all the options.
In June 2020, CRCC announced that it will conduct additional studies to assess the development of a monorail project and a subway project in Phnom Penh.
The progress of these projects, especially the ones at the planning stage, is yet to be ascertained. There is a lot of potential and interest in the region, especially in Thailand and Malaysia, but the projects are not able to move forward due to lack of funding and proper planning as well as poor project management. In addition, land acquisition bottlenecks are also a common issue, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. More determined efforts are required from the government authorities to ensure the development of these projects.