Contractors race to cash in on Southeast Asia's subway boom

Contractors race to cash in on Southeast Asia's subway boom
Mud-pressure shield excavators supplied by Kawasaki Heavy Industries to Japan's Sato Kogyo and South Korea's SK Engineering & Construction are used for subway construction in Singapore.

TOKYO - Japanese general contractors won bids for a string of subway projects in Southeast Asia in 2013 and 2014, and they are now preparing to start construction. Among the projects is Singapore's Thomson Line, a 30km-long all-underground line that could determine whether Japan's urban subway tunnel technology can compete in overseas markets.

Proving grounds

Japan's contractors will also have the chance to prove themselves in new territory. Vietnam and Indonesia are developing their first subways and have selected Japanese companies to carry out the construction.

In Vietnam, a joint venture between Shimizu and Maeda landed about 23.2 billion yen (S$255 million) contract to construct a section of metro line No. 1 in Ho Chi Minh City. The deal includes construction of two stations and two 781-meter shielded tunnels under the city's main thoroughfare.

In Indonesia, Shimizu, Obayashi and a local partner jointly won an order worth approximately 17 billion yen to build, as part of the country's urban railway system in Jakarta, four underground stations and two shielded tunnels stretching 2.6km.

Both projects are financed by yen loans from the Japanese government, which gave them an edge over local contractors in bidding for the contracts. For this reason, Singapore's Thomson Line project could provide a more accurate measure of the competitiveness of Japan's general contractors.

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