Engineering deans from 61 universities, including Khon Kaen, want the government to pressure China into setting up a high-speed train equipment testing facility in Thailand, on top of allowing Thais to participate in their joint rail project as engineers.The main goal would be to transfer technology know-how so Thailand will not have to rely on Chinese expertise for maintenance after the controversial Thai-Sino rail project is complete.

They say only allowing Thai engineers to participate in the project development is not enough to ensure that the promised technology transfer takes place. The call was made after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha exercised issued a Section 44 order to speed up the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway project between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. Sadly no link to Khon Kaen.

The order was aimed at clearing technical and legal hurdles for the delayed 252-kilometre project. The government said Thailand and China would be able to sign a deal for the design contract of the 179-billion-baht project by July.

Komsan Maleesee, president of the Council of Engineering Deans of Thailand (CEDT) in which the deans of engineering schools at 61 universities nationwide which provide engineering courses are members, said after the council meeting Wednesday the council agreed China must be asked to invest in setting up a facility where rail equipment would be tested here.

Thai engineering lecturers would be brought in to participate in the process, including the testing of carriages, electricity and locomotion systems as well as suspension systems, he said.It is important to negotiate with China about such cooperation since only allowing Thai engineers and architects to take part in the projects as requested by those two professional bodies is not enough in terms of technology transfer, according to the president of the CEDT.

“When technology is shared with universities, (including Khon Kaen) this would lead to further progress in research on electric train technology in Thailand,” said Mr Komsan, adding this would help Thailand to carry out high-speed train maintenance in the future without relying on foreigners.