The Trans-Asian Railway (TAR), a potential network of over 80,000 kilometres of routes linking 27 Member States of the United Nations regional body for Asia and the Pacific, gained new momentum today under a draft agreement that could boost transport ranging from trade to tourism as far as northern Europe.
The agreement, finalized at a three-day inter-governmental meeting in Bangkok organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), could play a catalytic role in constructing and upgrading railway lines in Asia and complements an Asian Highway Network accord that came into force in July.
“Through the two agreements, UNESCAP wants to provide a solid base for a regional approach to transport development, ushering in a new era of cooperation and creating a partnership for regional integration,” ESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su said.
The network’s aim is to offer efficient transport service within the region and between Asia and Europe as well as improved access for landlocked countries to its major ports, with the potential to greatly shorten distances and transit times while boosting transport as a tool for trade expansion, economic growth and cultural exchanges.
ESCAP has adopted a step-by-step approach to TAR, initially dividing the network into four major components:
- A northern corridor connecting China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia and the Korean peninsula.
- A south corridor connecting Thailand and the southern Chinese province of Yunan with Turkey through Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Iran, with Sri Lanka as part of the corridor.
- A sub-regional network covering the Association of South East Asian Nations – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
- A north-south corridor linking Northern Europe to the Persian Gulf through Russia, Central Asia, the Caucasus region as well as across the Caspian Sea.
In collaboration with interested countries, ESCAP’s Transport and Tourism Division has already started putting TAR into operation. Four demonstration runs of container block-trains have been carried out along key segments of the northern corridor, providing greater awareness of international trade patterns arising from globalization and testing new skills to meet industry for efficient transport and logistic services.