Blue Line Upgrade: Trust is a must
The massive expansion of Bangkok‘s public transport is part of Thailand’s ambitious Development Plan. The Blue Line – Bangkok’s first underground - will then transport half a million passengers per day. Fortunately, the local head of Siemens Mobility knows the key to success.
Rush hour in Bangkok. Cars are snaking through the city bumper to bumper, as though all heading to the same destination. Motorcycles squeeze into every last inch in between. The scene resembles a slowly moving thick porridge. For many people in Bangkok, this is the norm – day in and day out. And it poses a major challenge for those who need to be punctual in order to earn a living
Right in the midst of the chaos, we find Tomasz Mazur. Moving to Thailand was a conscious decision he made 10 years ago, one he has never regretted. Originally from Poland with a long history in Germany and project experience in Europe and China, he was in search of a challenge, a different environment, a different culture. He found it in Bangkok. “I was excited and curious,” Tomasz Mazur remembers. Now, 10 years later, he still feels that way and has good reason to. These days, Mazur is Head of Siemens Mobility in Thailand, a position he steadily grew into. His latest challenge is the extension of the Blue Line, the first subway line in Thailand’s capital, which has been in operation for fourteen years now.
A step in the right direction
By now Mazur knows only too well that for Asian customers, two issues are of great importance. “We at Siemens not only have to be reliable with regard to delivery but also with understanding and supporting our customers,” he explains. He is positive that the extension of the “Blue Line” subway route in Bangkok was awarded to Siemens in September last year by the operator, Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited (BEM), and its parent company, Ch. Karnchang Public Company Limited, a construction business, precisely because they fulfill these criteria. It is a turnkey project comprising the supply of 35 three-part metro trains, signaling technology, traction power supply, and the entire equipment for the associated depot and workshop.
As the availability of trains is critical to the cost-effectiveness of transport systems, Siemens has also been assigned responsibility for maintenance and services until 2029. Dr. Sombat Kitjalaksana, Managing Director of BEM, is very pleased with this decision. “So if we talk about Siemens, they are one of the few companies in the world that have such high quality that they can take care of the overall system for us so well,” he explains, making it clear that his choice undoubtedly also had to do with continuity. After all, both companies can look back on a successful shared history. Already in 2004, the Blue Line was delivered by Siemens as a turnkey rail system. Every day, around 320,000 passengers are transported along the 20-kilometer route with 18 stops. This line is now being extended by an additional19 stations, covering a distance of around 28 kilometers. According to forecasts, up to 500,000 passengers per day will be transported on this line after the extension is finished.
Really understand your customer
Mazur, however, also remembers a trickier situation. In 2007, BTS, the operator of the Skytrain, tendered for one additional station for the route. Considering that Siemens had already realized the Skytrain project with a turnkey solution, it seemed obvious to offer a turnkey solution again. It turned out, though, that the customer had something else in mind, and Siemens lost the order to a competitor.
“Don’t get me wrong, we have always performed well. That was not the issue. In the Asian and particularly the Thai culture, messages come between the lines and dissatisfaction is often shown by withdrawal. One needs to sensitively listen to the customer and take in the guidance he is offering,” Mazur explains. “It was a very emotional time for us but we certainly learned our lesson,” he says. And taking this to heart has certainly paid off. In the last three years Siemens Mobility has not only been able to extend long term maintenance contracts for the growing Blue and Green Line metros but has also been awarded several railway projects to deliver trains, power supply and signaling systems for these metro mass transit lines. In addition, Siemens Mobility will also deliver the signaling for Thailand’s main lines. And for the newest contract, Siemens Mobility will provide the modern automated people mover Airval for the Bangkok International airport Survarnabhumi.
Experience creates trust
Dr. Sombat who has also been in business for a long time, knows that local transportation projects can only be implemented successfully with the right partner. “Siemens has been in Thailand for a long time. And so their understanding goes beyond having a good system,” he explains. “They understand which direction things should go in order to benefit the country.” For Dr. Sombat, the expansion of the local transport system in Bangkok is of much greater importance. “The metro isn’t just about the passengers’ demands; it is actually about the economy. If we didn’t have the Mass Rapid Transit System, the economy would immediately become bottlenecked.”
Here to stay
When Mazur initially arrived in 2006, Siemens already had a visible footprint in Bangkok. The Skytrain had been running for six years and the MRTA Metro for two. The two turnkey projects were stable with regard to their deliveries. At the time, the focus was on running and maintaining these systems as well as on overhauling the trains. In addition, Siemens was also delivering the next turnkey project for the Airport Rail Link. It was a special and successful time for Siemens. During his first three years in Bangkok, Mazur was Head of Maintenance for the Skytrain and later for the Service Business for the whole of Thailand.
“In Bangkok, there is always a new perspective,” Mazur says. “The historical development of Bangkok particularly in the field of transport is very interesting. Here, I feel I am moving, developing my own capabilities while at the same time supporting a team of almost 700 employees. It is most rewarding. And it is not just the position that makes me tick. It is the teamwork with all the Mobility employees and our customers on a basis of trust.”
The government’s perspective is clear as well as ambitious. It is planning to increase passenger volumes for public transportation in Bangkok from 40 to 60 percent by 2021. The bar has been set high, because using public transportation must be the best option for commuters.
The National Development Plan is the government in Bangkok’s response to the massive expansion of local traffic. Siemens is also called upon here to work with customers to jointly develop technologically and financially feasible approaches with workable timelines for major infrastructure projects of this kind.
Time to deliver
Mazur is confident that The Blue Line Extension will go according to plan. An experienced project management team is in place. Currently, this project is in its design phase. “Internally, however, we are already in the in manufacturing phase for those components we already know will be part of the system,” Mazur explains. His good insight into the project is convincing. He enjoys working directly with the people, maintaining close contact to the customer and to the project.
Although Bangkok is getting more and more attractive for other mobility providers, Mazur sees a clear benefit for Siemens due to its strong history in the area and its ever-growing local workforce – of which more than 90 percent are Thais. He also makes sure to be a regular presence in all five offices all over Bangkok; manager who is touch with the operational aspects of the mobility business. The daily traffic situation in Bangkok doesn’t exactly make this easy, but after all that’s why Mazur is there: to help to solve this problem.
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