Trans-Asian Railway deal effective from tomorrow

The intergovernmental agreement on Trans-Asian Railway network comes into force tomorrow.

Countries throughout Asia will commit to coordinate the development and operation of international rail routes linking 28 countries of the region.

Marking the occasion, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the regional arm of UN, will arrange a meeting tomorrow at the United Nations Conference Centre, Bangkok.

The Agreement comes into effect ninety days after China has become the eighth country to ratify the treaty. The other parties to the agreement are Cambodia, India, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Thailand. Their railway ministers will participate in the ceremony through video messages, according to UNESCAP news yesterday.

The event will be presided over by Noeleen Heyzer, under-secretary-general of the United Nations and executive secretary of ESCAP. Barry Cable, director of ESCAP’s transport division will feature a presentation on the Trans-Asian Railway followed by a question-answer session with Heyzer and Cable.

The Trans-Asian Railway network, which was initiated in the 60s, comprises 114,000 km of rail routes of international importance. It aims to offer efficient rail transport services for goods and passengers within the ESCAP region and between Asia and Europe.

Of 30 landlocked countries, 12 are located in Asia with nearest ports often several thousands of kilometres away. The network will provide improved access to major ports for the countries.

The link offers immense potential to shorten the distances and reduce transit time between countries and regions being a catalyst for the notion of international transport as a tool for trade expansion, economic growth and cultural exchanges.

The agreement also identifies stations of international importance most of which are located inland and have similar functions to that of seaports. These so-called “dry ports” will act as consolidation and distribution centres in the hinterland, creating new opportunities for growth and benefits of economic and social development to a wider population.

This is the second treaty developed under the auspices of ESCAP– the other being the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network that entered into force July 2005.

TAR Background

The international events that punctuated the 60s, 70s and early 80s influenced the momentum of the TAR concept. However, with the political and economic changes in the region between 80s and early 90s, the development of the concept was revived.

The network was initially divided into four major components, which were studied separately. They are: (i) A northern corridor connecting the rail networks of China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Russian Federation and the Korean Peninsula.

ii) A southern corridor connecting Thailand and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan with Turkey through Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Sri Lanka.

(iii) A sub regional network covering the ASEAN and Indo-China sub regions, and

(iv) A north-south corridor linking Northern Europe to the Persian Gulf through the Russian Federation, Central Asia and the Caucasus region.

Source: The Daily Star, 10 June 2009


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