Smooth commuting in Asia is possible with the ability to upgrade metro systems into seamless networks within megacities, no matter the type and size of rail cars. This is accomplished with Thales' state-of-the-art technology, which is being fused with Asia's manufacturing strengths to make a big leap in urban transport. Headquartered in France, the Thales Group is a global technology leader for the defence, security, aerospace and transport industries with 68,000 employees worldwide. Present in more than 50 countries, it specialises in mission-critical advanced technologies that ensure the smooth flow of people and cargo. It has worldwide centres of excellence delivering innovations that have become industry benchmarks. With 1,300 employees and annual turnover exceeding HK$3.9 billion, Thales Canada operates the company's global technological hub for business jet flight control systems and military uncooled optronics in Montreal and the global centre of excellence in urban rail signalling in Toronto. Thales is a long-term player in Asia. It set the course for intelligent train systems with the development of communications-based train control (CBTC) technology for Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in 1988. One of the first markets for CBTC, Hong Kong helped make the business case for CBTC with results showing 10 to 30 per cent energy savings from using the technology. Thales has widely replicated the groundbreaking collaborative work done with the MTR. SelTrac, the most advanced CBTC system available in the market, is in passenger service in 34 metros, light rapid transits and automated people movers (APM) around the world, and is being deployed on 10 more lines. "Our approach is very much partnership based," says Paul Kahn, president and CEO of Thales Canada. "It is about taking a railway and evolving it into a high performance system, which is done together with the client." CBTC enables rail operators by maximising the capacity of their infrastructure with automated signalling, which lets trains move closer together with better efficiency. Whether installed on a new line or to replace worn-out signalling systems, SelTrac increases the capacity of a network by 25 to 35 per cent. It helps cut overhead costs with shorter platforms required to run fewer cars at a time. Operational costs are also drastically reduced by decelerating instead of braking as trains approach a station. SelTrac makes speed and throughput highly predictable, promoting full automation of rail service with moving blocks running at a safe braking distance. Thales has proven that SelTrac cuts lifecycle costs of railway systems by 40 per cent. "We make sure that the customer is happy with what we're doing. They are very much part of the approval process, the design process and the final testing process because safety is fundamental to everything that we do," Kahn says. With more than 100 specialists stationed at its Hong Kong office, Thales is helping shape a truly modern society. Thales is phasing in automatic fare collection and integrated security access management at the MTR. It is also doing the major re-signalling of the airport APM in line with the commissioning of a third runway. Thales has contributed to the development of infrastructure throughout Asia, spurring the ongoing automation of the Singapore and South Korea metro networks. Thales took its Asian engagement to the next level with the formation last year of Thales SAIC Transportation System, a joint venture with the Shanghai Electric (SEC) group. Thales SAIC integrates Thales' cutting-edge expertise with the vast reach of SEC, among the mainland's largest diversified equipment manufacturers, and its subsidiary Shanghai Automation Instrumentation, a major public transport contractor. Thales SAIC culminates six years of partnership among the three firms, in which they jointly developed five metro lines in Shanghai and modernised the Beijing, Guangzhou and Wuhan metro networks. Committed to localising the SelTrac system, Thales SAIC aims to design, test and massively deploy the technology across the mainland. "Having that footprint in the country is very important," says Stephen Vetter, business development director at Thales Canada, Transportation Solutions. "It gives us access to decision-makers during the design phase. It allows very interactive communication on very short cycles, which is crucial to deploying new technologies." Through Thales SAIC, Thales is intensifying its technology transfer to the mainland. "We are bringing innovation and the knowledge we have to benefit the customer. We're looking to enable their success," Kahn says.