The UIC Regional Assembly for the Middle-East (RAME) bringing together the CEOs of UIC Member railways from the Middle-East, held its 10th meeting in Doha, Qatar, at the invitation of Qatar Railway Company (QRC). The regional assembly was chaired by Mr Süleyman Karaman, President of Turkish railways (TCDD) and vice chaired by Mr Ali Abdol Saheb-Mohammadi, Vice-Minister of Road and Transportation of the I.R. of Iran, President of Iranian Railways (RAI). The regional assembly also included the Chairmen/Director-Generals of the Railways of Syria (CFS and Hejaz Railway Syria CFH), Jordan (Aqaba Railway ARC and Jordan Hejaz Railway JHR), Saudi Arabia (SRO), Iraq (IRR), Iran (RAI, NirooTransport, METRA), the National Transport Authority of the United Arab Emirates UAE (UIC member since 2010) and Qatar Railway QRC (UIC member since December 2011). UIC was represented by its Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux and UIC Coordinator for the Middle-East Paul Véron.
The permanent Office of “UIC Middle-East” led by Mr Abbas Nazari from RAI is based in Tehran. The Doha meeting was also attended by Mr Altaf Asghar, Deputy-Secretary-General of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) based in Tehran.
The meeting was opened by UIC RAME Chairman Mr Karaman and Eng. Saad Bin Ahmed Al Muhannadi, CEO of Qatar Railways who warmly welcomed all participants. In his opening address UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux underlined the importance of capitalising on the dynamism of the railways in the Middle-Eastern region to boost regional cooperation activities in terms of rail promotion and lobbying, and cooperation on technical issues. Considering all the promising projects being implemented or planned in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, as well as in the Gulf (GCC) region, the UIC Regional Assembly for the Middle-East with the support of UIC HQ should contribute to gain effective support from international organisations, governments, financial institutions, investors and all kinds of potential partners to the projects. After the recent difficult conditions in a number of Middle-Eastern countries, it is the right time to boost regional cooperation between railways at professional level, in line with UIC’s three core values of “Unity”, “Solidarity” and “Universality”.
In this context the ambitious and wide-ranging railway projects in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Qatar were presented in detail by the respective Presidents and CEOs. The UIC Middle-East Office distributed for the first time an extremely informative “Map of UIC Middle-East Railways” prepared in cooperation with all members concerned and illustrating all existing and planned railway lines, and new railway connections in the region.
During this meeting, Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux signed a joint “2012-2015 Action Plan for Cooperation on Rail Transit Development” on behalf of UIC with Mr Altaf Ashgar, Deputy-Secretary-General of ECO, the intergovernmental body based in Tehran grouping 10 Member States from the Middle-East and Central Asia. This Action Plan is a follow-up document of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in January 2001 between UIC and ECO. The main objectives consist in promoting the development of regional and international rail transit along the corridors in this (ECO) region at the crossroads for corridors connecting Asia, the Middle-East and Europe.
In order to present the Rail Vision for the Middle-East, a decision was made to hold a high-level conference in November 2012 in Jordan under the title: “Vision for an integrated Rail Transport System – Railway Projects and Perspectives in the Middle-East”. This high-level conference to be attended by ministers and high-level members of governments, international organisations, financial institutions and banks, railways, partners from the transport world, business and trade as well as international media, will offer a unique opportunity to draw attention to the railway plans in the region, and gain strong support from all stakeholders.
The approved “2012-2013 Action Plan for the UIC Middle-East Region” also includes the organisation of a “Seminar on High-Speed for the Middle-East” with Turkish Railways in Ankara in October 2012, a “UIC RAME Investors Forum” in connection with the 2nd GCC Railway Meeting in the second half of 2013 possibly in the UAE, a “Seminar on Rail/Ports Cooperation” also in the second half of 2013, a “Seminar on Railway Interoperabilty” (addressing technical, operational, commercial, administrative and legal interoperability) in Qatar in 2013 as well as Working Group meetings on Safety, Railway Operations in Desert and Extreme Conditions.
An important decision was adopted by RAME Members in the field of training with the creation of the “UIC Middle-East Railway Training Centre” (MERTCe) at the initiative of TCDD and UIC. The objectives are described in a message from Mr Karaman as follows: “MERTCe is designed to create a solution for the training needs of railways emerging due to the fast developments in the Middle-East. It is envisaged that MERTCe will make contributions to the creation of a common railway area in the Middle-East in the medium and long-term and to the provision of interoperability via training and education”. MERTCe will be managed by TCDD in close cooperation with UIC and based in TCDD’s Rail Training Centre of Eskisehir, Turkey.
The 11th meeting of the UIC Regional Assembly for the Middle-East is planned to be held in Jordan, the day prior to the high-level railway conference in November 2012 (date to be confirmed).