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June 14, 2007

Malaysian-Thai landbridge services promote trade
The Malaysian-Thai landbridge services have proven to be a successful rail product in promoting cross-border trade between Malaysia and Thailand, national railway company KTMB general manager (freight services) Abd Radzak Abd Malek said on June 14.

According to him, there is all-round conviction that the landbridge service will grow in tandem with the trade expansion in ASEAN and the region.

"KTMB will strive to ensure that it remains competitive in all aspects, especially in terms of cost efficiency," he said in a paper presented at the Fifth Asean Ports and Shipping Conference 2007 held at the Persada International Convention Centre.

The two-day conference and exhibition, organised by Malaysia-based Transport Events Management Sdn Bhd, has attracted more than 400 delegates and exhibitors from 25 countries.

From the initial two services per week, the landbridge has grown to 40 services weekly between the two countries, said Abd Radzak, who been involved in the project since its conception in 1999.

The goods carried in full container load (FCL) include steel, rice, petrochemical products, manufactured goods and electronic parts, and the less container load (LCL) goods include spare parts, foodstuff, electrical goods and general merchandise.

Abd Radzak attributed the success of the landbridge services to the safer mode of transportation, shorter transit time, simplified customs documentation at both ends, one-stop logistics centre, and just-in-time and lower freight cost.

"The landbridge services have raised interest among hauliers to go across the border," he said, adding that about 30 players are presently involved in the cross-border traffic, carrying goods valued at millions of dollars.

Abd Radzak said the services, which started in June 1999, had experienced growth for five consecutive years from 1999 to 2004 in terms of container throughput handled and revenue.

"The landbridge business, however, is currently on a declining trend," he said, adding that this was due to problems such as reduced capacity on the Thai side arising from lack of locomotives.

Abd Radzak said the landbridge operators were also facing competition from bigger and faster vessels plying between Malaysian and Thai ports and from road hauliers.

Despite the problems, officials in both countries expect the landbridge services to remain a viable option for a long time, he said.

The services will continue to expand and may cover countries like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, Abd Radzak said.

"We are looking at using the landbridge experience to extend it to these countries with the completion of the Singapore-Kunming rail link project to facilitate intra-Asean trade with China," he said. Bernama

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