A group of Asian countries today signed an agreement which will ultimately see the development and operation of a massive inter-linked rail network throughout the continent.
The Trans-Asian Rail Network covers around 114,000 km of rail routes of international importance linking 28 countries throughout Asia. The aim of the network is to provide a more efficient rail infrastructure for the movement of goods and passengers both within Asia and between Asia and Europe. It is also intended to allow landlocked Asian countries access to major seaports.
Today’s agreement was signed at the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) between Cambodia, China, India, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Thailand.
UN under-secretary-general and ESCAP executive secretary Noeleen Heyzer highlighted the importance of today’s signing: “Modern economies cannot generate long-term growth and employment without highly efficient transport networks that are developed with a high level of integration. The timing of this agreement is particularly significant as leaders from our region promote intra-regional trade to stimulate recovery from the economic crisis. It will provide a more cost effective way of doing business and ensure the benefits of trade are more evenly distributed across the region.”
Following the agreement, a working group made up of ESCAP member states will be established to discuss policies relating to the network. The first such meeting is expected to take place in December.
The agreement originally opened for signatures in 2006, with a number of projects, including the construction of the 227 km Tashguzar-Baysun-Kumkurgan line in Uzbekistan, already completed.