The 8th meeting of the UIC Regional Assembly for Middle-East
(RAME) was held in Istanbul on 23 November at the invitation of Turkish State Railways (TCDD). In absence of UIC RAME Chairman Mr. Süleyman Karaman, President and CEO of TCDD, who was unable to attend, the meeting was chaired by the UIC RAME 1st Vice-Chairman, Mr. Ali Abdol Saheb-
Mohammadi, Vice-Minister for Road and Transportation, and President of the Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the Deputy Director-General of TCDD Mr. Ismet Duman, and Director-Generals of the railways of Syria (Georges Mokabari, CFS, and Mahmoud Sakbani, CFH), Jordan (Hussein
Krishan, Aqaba Railway ARC and Salah Alloizi, Hijaz Jordan Railway HJR), Iran (and in addition RAI, Siamak Ghaheri, METRA, Mohamad Satei, NirooRail Transport), and Turkey (Gökhan Tezgel, HIZTAS).
UIC was represented by Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director-General, and Paul Véron, Director, and Coordinator for the Middle-East, and the UIC Regional Office for the Middle-East (Tehran) by Mr. Abbas Nazari, Director of the Office, and Director-General of International Affairs at Iranian Railways
The 8th “UIC Middle-East” Assembly meeting was opened by TCDD Deputy Director-General Ismet Duman who welcomed all members in Istanbul on behalf of Chairman Süleyman Karaman and summarised recent developments as well as the perspectives for railways in Turkey and in the
Middle-Eastern region. He particularly mentioned the prospects for international freight corridors, recalled the efforts made to transport goods by rail to help Pakistan during the floods and announced the high-level railway conference planned in Turkey in 2011 to address all decision-makers and institutions involved in the region.
As chairman of the meeting, RAI President Mr. Ali Abdol Saheb-Mohammadi expressed satisfaction that the UIC Regional Assembly for Middle-East has now reached its cruising speed and will be able to develop new activities (particularly in the fields of economy, business, etc.) for the benefit of all railways in the region.
UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux reminded participants that UIC, as the global association of railways, is currently coordinating around 200 projects in very different fields and that the development of regional cooperation represents the other important pillar of the new UIC governance.
In the technical field, all UIC dedicated forums and platforms are open to all members and in some cases, to bridge the gap, the use of new communications technologies and videoconferences is becoming more prevalent. RAME members should consider which UIC technical projects they could be more closely involved, which technical activities need the setting-up of specific working groups for the Middle-East (with UIC technical support) and which activities should be handled at multi-regional level taking into account a more general interest in the subject (e.g. the conference on oil transportation by rail). Mr. Loubinoux also insisted that the “UIC Middle-East” Assembly has found – through its Action Plan – the right balance between the political/lobbying activities to promote rail transport in the Middle-East and cooperation activities in the railway technical field.
Iranian Railways (RAI and NirooRail) and Turkey (TCDD) presented the status of their national railway projects (modernisation, renewal, network extension) with a focus on their contribution to important international rail corridors (East-West as well as North-South axes). Syrian Railways’ Mr. Mokabari (CFS), underlined the changes and new perspectives for railways in the Middle-Eastern region and addressed prospects for increased cooperation with the Union of Arab Railways (UAR) that he will be chairing as the successor of Mr. Krishan.
Mr. Abbas Nazari reported on the activities of the UIC Regional Office in Tehran and the numerous initiatives launched in 2010. The Office worked in particular on defining its Programme of Work based on the UIC RAME Action Plan, organising the technical workshops in liaison with UIC (technical expertise) and member railways, identifying railway experts in Middle-Eastern railways (experts for rail safety, security, infrastructure maintenance, etc.), improving communications between members and creating a regional UIC Middle-East website, shortly available under the “regional sections” of the
UIC website (www.uic.org), establishing contacts, preparing agreements with international organisations (e.g. ECO, UNESCAP, UNESCWA, regional banks, etc.) particularly in connection with rail corridor developments, and efforts to attract new Middle-Eastern railways to become UIC members.
High-level conference “Towards a competitive, interconnected Rail Transport System – Projects and Perspectives in the Middle-East”
One of the main activities in 2011 is the preparation of the high-level conference to be held at the end of February in Turkey ("Towards a competitive, interconnected Rail Transport System – Projects and Perspectives in the Middle-East"). This conference organised by “UIC Middle-East” with TCDD will provide a unique opportunity to present the common vision of Middle-Eastern countries on rail development in the region and for railways to present the latest status of their rail development and construction plans. The conference will be targeted at high-level participants: Transport Ministers, public authorities, Presidents and Director-Generals of railway companies and all stakeholders involved. Also invited to the conference are all international organisations involved in transport planning and investments: regional development and investment banks, private investors and potential partners, etc. The purpose is to provide a clear vision of future railway developments in the Middle-East, to highlight the emergence of an interconnected rail transport system in the near future and subsequently to gain strong support from all political and economic stakeholders.
1st “Oil Rail” international conference in July 2011 in Iran
For 2011 (July) the UIC RAME Action Plan includes the 1st “Oil Rail” international conference organised at the initiative of NirooRail Transport company, Iran. The conference, dedicated to the transport of oil, gas and petrochemical products, will be organised at multi-regional level and open to all rail and intermodal transport companies, oil producers, public authorities, etc., playing a role in the
organisation of the oil transport market. The conference will focus on technological innovation in rolling stock, equipment and infrastructure, safety and security issues, operations, marketing, regulatory aspects. The aim following this conference is to prepare a UIC Leaflet or Guidelines in liaison with the UIC Freight department on oil and gas transportation.
The UIC RAME Action Plan also includes a Workshop in May 2011 in Aleppo, Syria, on “Logistics, Wet and Dry Ports”, organised in cooperation with Syrian Railways (CFS).
As far as technical seminars for Middle-Eastern railways are concerned, the Regional Assembly agreed to add following activities to the Action Plan:
- Technical seminar (and working group) on railway operations in desert (infrastructure conditions, rail/vehicle interaction, etc.), proposal by ARC, Jordan,
- Regional training session on High speed, proposal by TCDD, Turkey.
The 2011 budget proposed for the UIC Middle-Eastern region (including budget of the Regional Office for 2011) was approved.
The Regional Assembly also unanimously supported the application of Hijaz Jordan Railway (HJR) to become a new UIC Member (application presented at the next UIC General Assembly on 6 December in Beijing) and subsequently as a “UIC Middle-East” member.
The next UIC Middle-East Regional Assembly meeting will be held in Amman, Jordan, at the invitation of Aqaba Railway (ARC), in May/June 2011 and the following meeting in December 2011 in Paris at UIC HQ.