Asian railway integration gains momentum at UN-backed meetings
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) --
Transport ministers and experts from across Asia and the Pacific opened a week-long series of meetings at United Nations headquarters in Bangkok on 14 December to accelerate regional integration by further linking national railway networks and setting up major hub stations connecting inland economic centres.
The first session of the Forum of Asian Ministers of Transport is meeting against the backdrop of the recent financial crisis, which has increased the urgency with which countries need to address regional integration and ways to increase regional and domestic demand as ’new’ sources of growth, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said.
ESCAP will provide strategic guidance for the development of transport, transit and the improvement of transport capacity in the region, and address the effect of transport on the economy, environment and society.
The focus of the meeting will be on so-called “dry ports” - stations of global importance, most of which are located inland and function like ports in coastal areas - which will act as consolidation and distribution centres in the hinterland, spur growth and bring the benefits of economic and social development to a wider population, according to ESCAP.
At the same time the Working Group on the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) network will review the progress of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the TAR network, which came into effect in June, comprising 114,000 kilometres of rail routes of international importance, and seeks to offer efficient transport of goods and passengers both within the region and between Asia and Europe.
Meanwhile the Expert Group Meeting on Financing for Transport Infrastructure will identify, prioritize and mobilize financial resources for transport infrastructure development.
Seventeen ministers and deputy ministers of transport have accepted invitations to participate, including those from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.
The TAR pact is the second to have been developed under ESCAP auspices; the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network entered into force in 2005. The two networks are major building blocks towards the realization of an international integrated inter-modal transport and logistics system for the region, ESCAP said.