The 7th meeting of the UIC Regional Assembly for the Middle-East (RAME) was held on 30 May in Tehran at the invitation of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways. The day before, on 29 May, the first meeting of the Group of the Assistants of Middle-Eastern Railways (Heads of International Affairs) had taken place on the premises of the UIC Regional Office at RAI Headquarters with the task of preparing decisions for the RAME CEOs’ meeting.
The 7th meeting of the RAME Regional Assembly was chaired by Mr. Süleyman Karaman, President and CEO of Turkish Railways TCDD, in the presence of the 1st RAME Vice Chairman Mr. Abdol Ali Saheb-Mohammadi, Deputy Minister for Roads and Transportation of the I.R. of Iran and President of RAI (hosting the meeting) and UIC representatives Mr. Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General, Mr. Paul Véron, Director, and UIC Coordinator for the Middle-East and Mr. Atsushi Yokoyama from JR-East representing the UIC Chairman Mr. Ishida. The meeting was attended by delegations from TCDD (Turkey), RAI and Niroo (Iran), CFS and CFH (Syria) and from the ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization based in Tehran).
On opening the meeting Chairman Mr. Karaman underlined that the main objectives consisted in further developing and improving cooperation among members, promoting the ambitious railway projects for the Middle-Eastern region and encouraging members to be more closely associated to UIC’s technical activities. He announced that an important conference would be organised this autumn in Turkey to publicise and promote the vision of an interconnected rail transport system for the Middle-East in the presence of representatives from governments, international organisations and regional banks. For the UIC Middle-Eastern region, strong focus is put on the development of seamless freight corridors, e.g. linking the Middle-East to Asia or Europe.
The meeting’s host Mr. Saheb-Mohammadi warmly welcomed the delegations from Middle-Eastern Railways, UIC and ECO. The RAI President presented the main challenges for the railways of this UIC Region. He stressed in particular that the Middle-East has an important role to play in rail transportation between Asia and Europe. The Middle-Eastern network with around 24,000 km of railway lines, and carrying 70 million tonnes of freight and more than 110 million passengers annually, is increasing and developing the length of its railway lines. Currently numerous projects are under way to develop rail connections between Middle-Eastern countries. According to UIC’s Vision 2025 for the Middle-East, the 2025 network should have 2 to 2.5 times more kilometres of railway lines than today’s network.
Mr. Saheb-Mohammadi also described the efforts of Iranian Railways to efficiently support the activities of the UIC Middle-Eastern Region. These efforts in particular resulted in opening the new UIC Regional Office at RAI HQ in Tehran, circulating the Business Plan and Programme of Work for the Office, and organising on behalf of UIC RAME the 2nd Educational Seminar on Railway Safety on 4 – 5 May in Tehran.
UIC Director General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux thanked RAI and Mr. Saheb-Mohammadi for their commitment in establishing the UIC Middle-East Office, proposing a reduced budget for its running and preparing a Business Plan for a consistent programme of activities. The office has to develop its role as an efficient tool serving the whole community of Middle-Eastern railways.
UIC Director General described what he considered as priorities for the Middle-Eastern region (with the support of Chairman Mr. Karaman and Tehran Regional Office):
- Make efforts to attract new members in order to increase the RAME representativity,
- Communicate and lobby for the ambitious rail projects in the Middle-East,
- Develop links (through agreements, MoUs) with international organisations with competence in the region (ECO, UNESCWA, UNECE),
- Develop partnerships with potential investors and business partners (by organising Investors Forum),
- Identify regional or multi-regional projects on technical issues,
- Better integrate Middle-Eastern railways into the regular work of UIC’s technical bodies (Forums, Platforms). Jean-Pierre Loubinoux reminded participants that progress had been made in this direction with the organisation of the 6th RAME meeting in December 2009 in Paris at UIC HQ, in the presence of UIC technical directors and senior advisers.
Action Plan 2010-2011 for the Middle-East
Participants also agreed on the activities proposed in the UIC RAME Action Plan for 2010 – 2011. The main activities will include:
- High-level conference “Towards an interconnected, competitive Rail Transport System – Projects and Perspectives for the Middle-East (autumn 2010 in Turkey),
- Organisation of a RAME Investors Forum in a Middle-East country (in Dubai? in a Gulf State?),
- Preparation of a workshop on freight corridors, land bridges, cooperation with sea carriers, ports, etc. (possibly in Syria, TBC),
- Follow-up of the Rail Safety Seminar (4 – 5 May 2010, Tehran): guidelines for a safety database and a Safety Management System for ME Railways,
- Workshop on Infrastructure Maintenance – Asset Management System + Desert Working Group (2nd half of September, Jordan, TBC),
- Preparation of a conference and UIC project on Transportation of Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals Products by Rail (“Oil Rail” multi-regional project”), Iran, spring 2011,
- Launch an activity related to railway security in the Middle-East (1st meeting of RAME Security experts on 22 June in Istanbul in connection with the UIC/TCDD World Congress on Rail Security),
- Possible participation in a UIC project aiming to develop a network of Rail Training Centres.
The minutes and all presentations will be available in the form of a Digipak (with CD).