The Silk Road trading route weaved its way through Asia. Now there is to be an ‘iron’ version of the famed Silk Road. When Asian transport ministers sign an agreement next month, an ‘iron’ version of the famed Silk Road will move a step closer to reality. The iron road runs from Armenia to Viet Nam.
The trans-continental rail network is planned to link capital cities, ports and industrial centres. The aim is to facilitate international trade and tourism. It will be like a modern version of the ancient Silk Road caravans that for centuries fostered trade and commerce from China to Europe.
A Ministerial Conference on Transport will also see the signing of the Trans-Asian Railway Network (TAR) Agreement. It will take place at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Busan, Republic of Korea. The event runs over six days. from 6-11 November.
This new network comes immediately after the Asian Highway Network that came into force last year, thanks to UNESCAP.
“Through these two Agreements, UNESCAP will usher in a new era of cooperation and partnership for regional integration,” Commission Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su said in a statement today on the 28-nation network.
“With 60 per cent of the world’s population generating 26 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product, Asia’s demand for efficient transport is greater than at any time in its history.”
By integrating of rail and shipping port congestion can me minimized, UNESCAP experts say. The aim is to greatly improve port efficiency. Port congestion and inefficiency cause major problems in Asia, home to 13 of the world’s top 20 container ports.
The TAR agreement is also crucial for landlocked countries in the region. Their access to world markets is heavily dependent on their neighbors and efficient links to the region’s main international ports. There are 30 landlocked countries in the world. Twelve of them are in Asia, and 10 of those 12 are TAR members.
“The Agreement lays a framework for coordinated development of internationally important rail routes,” Mr. Kim said. “A working group proposed under the Agreement will be a forum for transport policy makers and railway managers to define a common vision, adopt joint programmes of action and, most importantly, identify investment requirements and sources.”
UNESCAP started the process for this project in 2004, and the Agreement was finalized last November. The TAR members adopted the agreement at the Commission’s annual legislative session in Jakarta, Indonesia in April.
Here is the list of TAR members, arranged alphabetically: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Viet Nam.