GEC Alsthom wins dollars 2.4bn Korean deal: Consortium will supply high-speed trains

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The Independent Online
A CONSORTIUM led by GEC Alsthom, the joint venture between GEC and Alcatel Alsthom of France, has won a dollars 2.4bn high-speed train contract with the Korea High Speed Rail Construction Authority. GEC Alsthom, which accounts for the lion's share of the deal, said that it was the company's largest single contract to date. Negotiations on the details will begin within the next few days.

The company will supply 46 trainsets based on France's TGV high-speed trains. Each will be able to carry more than 1,000 passengers and will be about a quarter of a mile long. South Korea will be the first Asian country to launch a rail project of this size and to use trains that will run at speeds of up to 300 kilometres an hour. Douglas Gadd, the chairman of GEC Alsthom, said: 'This is a very big contract by any standards in transport and engineering.'

GEC Alsthom's partners include Cegelec, another Alcatel Alsthom company, and CSEE Transport, which will make the speed control system. The trains will service a 411km line between Seoul and Pusan, beginning services in 1999. They are intended to link the cities of Chongju, Taejon, Taegu and Kwangu and will carry more than 80 million passengers a year during the first few years of operation.

The bulk of the manufacturing will be done in France although the signalling system will be made in Borehamwood, north London. Mr Gadd said that the contract had been won against competition from Japanese and German manufacturers. He said that the company was also involved in studies for a private high- speed line in Texas and in a project in Taiwan.

GEC Alsthom is also supplying the International Project Group of British Rail, SNCF of France and the Belgian railway, SNCB, with trains for the Channel tunnel service, which is due to open next year. Thirty-one trains will be supplied to run between London and Paris and London and Belgium. A further seven will run from Paris through to Scotland, Mr Gadd said. Passenger services through the tunnel are expected to begin in April or May.