Monday 13 December 2021

28th UIC Regional Assembly for the Middle East held on 24 November 2021 in Istanbul and online

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The 28th UIC Regional Assembly for the Middle East (RAME) was held as a hybrid event, online and in Istanbul, on 24 November. Participating members included TCDD, TCDD Taşımacılık A.Ş. (Turkey), RAI (Iran), IRR (Iraq), ARC, JHR (Jordan), CFS, SHR (Syria), Isfahan Kafriz Company (Iran), MOEI (United Arab Emirates), SAR and TGA (Saudi Arabia).

The meeting was opened by UIC Director General François Davenne
Mr Davenne welcomed Metin Akbaş, Acting Chairman of the Board and Director General of TCDD, Seyed Miad Salehi, Vice-Minister for Roads and Urban Development, Chairman of the Board, RAI President and Vice-Chairman of the Middle East region, Bashar Al Malik, CEO of SAR and Vice-Chairman of the region and all of the members participating in Istanbul and online. He highlighted UIC’s added value and stressed the fact that the association is in the process of creating strong convergence between regions. UIC and RAME are becoming more efficient in order to develop a clear vision for cooperation.

Mr Davenne emphasised a number of further points:

  • New dynamism within the region
  • Strategies for freight development
  • Advancements in 2021 with new administrative arrangements and the approval of the regional Terms of Reference
  • Proposal to conduct projects for members of the region with the vision for 2050
  • Crucial development of FRMCS
  • UIC involvement in topics relating to its Vision 2030 and the ‘new normal’, the future of mobility

Opening remarks were also made by Metin Akbaş, who chaired and moderated the Regional Assembly. Mr Akbaş welcomed all of the participants in Istanbul and online and stressed:

  • his appreciation for being able to meet with some of his colleagues in İstanbul and online after many months of virtual meetings,
  • his career in the railways, which began in 1987. He extended his best wishes to Seyed Miad Salehi and Zahi Khalil, who have taken up new positions as Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development and President of RAI and Director General of Jordan Hejaz Railways, respectively,
  • his firm belief in UIC’s three core values: unity, solidarity and universality, and the importance he attaches to them,
  • the sustainability and durability of the railways as demonstrated once more during the pandemic,
  • the ongoing efforts of the railways in terms of sustainable development and carbon neutrality and the significance of the UIC Vision 2030 in this context,
  • the importance of the TrainRail hackathon, which RAME members could attend with cooperation under the umbrella of the Middle East Railway Training Centre (MERTCe).

Mr Akbaş also invited the vice-chairman, Seyed Miad Salehi, to make a welcoming statement to the members of the Assembly.

Mr Salehi expressed how pleased he was to virtually meet all of his friends and colleagues from UIC and RAME members for the first time at the 28th RAME meeting. He expressed his congratulations to Mr Akbaş and to Mr Khalil on their new roles.

Mr Salehi highlighted RAI’s priorities and major initiatives that have been completed or are being planned:

  • Developing relations with neighbouring countries as the top foreign policy priority for the thirteenth government of Iran,
  • Completing rail infrastructure along with regional corridors,
  • Increasing international transport and transit,
  • Various projects in construction and development of the railways with short- and long-term plans,
  • RAI access to Turkey and then Europe through the Razi border in the west of Iran, to Azerbaijan through Jolfa and Astara, to the Caspian Sea and the ports of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation through the ports of Amirabad, Neka and Turkmen in the north of Iran, to Turkmenistan, Central Asia, Russia and China through Sarakhs, Incheh Boroun and Lotfabad, to Afghanistan through Shamtigh in the east of Iran, to Pakistan through Mirjaveh in the southeast of Iran, to the Persian Gulf and international waters through the ports of Bandar Abbas and Imam Khomeini in the south of Iran,
  • Endeavours to increase the capacity of goods exchange in the rail sector,
  • Conclusion of a protocol with the Chairman of Turkmenistan Railways in the margins of the Economic Joint Commission for transport facilitation and increased traffic in October 2021,
  • Increased exchange capacity for freight wagons at Incheh Borun customs to 100 wagons per day with double growth,
  • Signature of a Memorandum of Understanding on 26 November on commercialisation of the Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan corridor in Ashgabat, with the synergies of ECO, the ESCAP Commission and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

Hossein Ashouri, Acting President of RAI, then took the floor to welcome the participants. Thanking UIC and TCDD for hosting the meetings, he highlighted the following:

  • Construction of the Rasht-Caspian route will be completed in 2022, and this route will be activated by rail-sea transportation on the North-South route,
  • Construction of the Rasht-Astara railway line in order to create an entire rail-based route on the North-South corridor,
  • Construction of a standard railway line on the Zahedan-Mirjaveh route in order to boost the ITI corridor,
  • Connection to the Turkish railway network from the new border point of Cheshmeh Soraya,
  • Construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line.
    Mr Ashouri stated that the total length of main rail lines on the Iranian railways is 13,000 kilometres. At present, RAI has 26,000 freight wagons, 2,000 passenger coaches and 537 locomotives in service.

Mr Ashouri added that RAI is:

  • cooperating with ECO and ESCAP on the project to commercialise the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran rail corridor (KTI). A Memorandum of Understanding was signed during the ECO Summit held on 26 and 27 November,
  • monitoring the issue of running Iranian wagons on the rail network of CIS countries,
  • activating the corridor of the East Caspian Sea, Caspian Sea and the West Caspian Sea (a freight container was transported from Finland to India via the North-South corridor through Iran from Astara to Bandar Abbas within three days in July this year).
  • planning to transport cargo from Bandar Abbas to Osh in Kyrgyzstan,
  • hoping to then resume the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad freight train.

Mr Ashouri stated that the Khaf-Herat railway had been inaugurated on 10 December 2020. By opening this route, Afghanistan has been connected to the strategic port of Chabahar in the east of the country and the possibility of transporting various products from Afghanistan and Central Asia to Europe has been facilitated.
The Iranian Railways rail broad gauge was connected to Turkmenistan in March 2021, and transport of Iranian and Turkmen commercial wagons was facilitated through the Incheh Borun border.
Marc Guigon, UIC Passenger Director, then took the floor to participate in his first RAME Regional Assembly as Coordinator of the UIC Middle East region. Mr Guigon welcomed all of the participants to the 28th RAME Regional Assembly, presented the draft action plan and informed the assembly of three applications for UIC membership from Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

One of UIC’s roles is to establish and to improve cooperation between the railways of the region.

A number of reports were presented during the RAME Regional Assembly:

  • Report on recent activities of the UIC Middle East Regional Office
    • Activities and webinars in 2021
    • Updating of the 2021 Middle East railway map
    • Updating of the UIC Middle East website
  • 2022-2023 action plan
    Mr Guigon presented the draft 2022-2023 action plan and a roadmap for UIC RAME members. Some of the relevant points were then discussed:
    • Projects of general interest to members
    • Establishment of the Vision 2050
    • Planned conferences and webinars
    • Organisation of Middle East Railway Tuesdays
    • Upcoming training sessions
    • Integration of regional activities: passenger, freight and infrastructure
    • Signalling convergence standards
    • Research
    • Tourist trains
  • Report on new projects and achievements of UIC RAME members
    • Each RAME member presented the latest achievements of its railway company.
    • TCDD reported on the current status of work within the framework of the 2022 TrainRail hackathon.

UIC communications on RAME activities

Articles and LinkedIn posts published for RAME activities in 2021

  1. UIC presents opportunities and challenges for the Southern and Middle Corridors, 7 April 2021
  2. RAME webinar on research and innovation, 26 April 2021
  3. 27th UIC Regional Assembly for the Middle East (UIC RAME), 21 June 2021
  4. UIC “Railway training – best practices” webinar, the first joint webinar between the UIC Middle East and UIC Africa regions, 7 July 2021
  5. First RAME meeting with Marc Guigon as new coordinator of the UIC Middle East (RAME) region, 6 September 2021
  6. UIC Africa webinar, ‘8th Edition of the Training Cycle on Track Maintenance’, 24 September 2021
  7. UIC Africa webinar, ‘The African Railway Green Deal for Sustainable Mobility’ for the UIC Africa and Middle East regions, 28 September 2021
  8. UIC Africa webinar, ‘The Health and Safety Challenges faced by Railways since Covid-19’, 30 September 2021
  9. Workshop on standardisation by the UIC Asia-Pacific region, 14 October 2021
  10. Conference on Digital by the UIC Asia-Pacific region, 27 October 2021
  11. UIC RAME webinar on safety, 23 November 2021
  12. 28th UIC Regional Assembly for the Middle East (UIC RAME), 24 November 2021

For further information, please contact Marc Guigon, Coordinator of the Middle-East Region at

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