In 1992, the United Nations launched the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) activities as part of the Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development project. This led to studies on strategic corridors and railway networks as well as the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway Network in 2009 and various runs on container block-trains on these corridors. For the first time, UIC officially joined and participated in this initiative as agreed in the conclusions of the 2nd UNESCAP working group on TAR on 15 June 2011. This will enable UIC to bring its technical expertise and help UNESCAP continue its efforts in the gradual development and implementation of a common commercial vision, common technical standards and common operating procedures, shifting from competition to collaboration in the continent.
During the parallel seminar on promoting the Trans-Asian Railway on 15 and 16 June, each participant (government, freight forwarders, railway/intermodal operators, national/international agencies and authorities) had the opportunity to present its respective priorities and analysis on today’s freight development, with mention of passenger transport, and compare those needs to the work studied by UIC. Russian and Malaysian Railways have completely shifted their freight activities to a totally integrated intermodal concept, including hubs with ports and roads. Despite investments worth thousands of billions of USD in the next 20 years on rail infrastructure, Indian Railways are facing a real challenge regarding congestion and have already defined priority corridors to invest or upgrade, targeting a 50% + rail market share from their existing 40% share of the freight market. Finally, the Korean experience shows that sea-ports are competing with the development of inland dry-ports, optimally positioned closer to manufacturing location, creating real added-value, new functions and services. Caucasus Railways, by upgrading their rail infrastructure in creating new corridors, are becoming key actors for Asia to Europe transportation. Those integrated activities, now everywhere in Asia, will definitely interact with railways, making them unavoidable partners.
Technical solutions were, of course, discussed in order to deal with different track gauges or extreme conditions issues, as well as the latest research in technologies of the future: green solutions, Freight Maglev etc. Even if efforts still have to be made for a more important market share of railways in logistics routes, interoperability and inter-modality have already become a reality: tripling the intra-Asia container traffic between from 2007 to 2025, emerging private investors as major operators today, easing exchanges thanks to open-market agreements by reducing customs clearance time.
Finally, it was also the occasion to draw the updated map of the expected TAR, including full routes from East to West, with no gap and above any political consideration, only leaving place for a better rail freight with enhanced efficiency on “PRICE, PLACE, PERFORMANCE, PRODUCT and PACE” (quote from Mr Raghu Dayal, participant representing the Asian Institute of Transport Development) .
All these valuable materials will be available shortly for UIC and UNESCAP members only on their respective websites.