Strengthening rail connectivity between South-East Asia and North and Central Asia


Strengthening the rail network between the two sub-regions is becoming a more and more urgent issue

Existing and planning inland routes:

1) China — Kazakhstan — Russia — Belarus — EU. Key route for EU — China links. The challenges are geopolitical trade restrictions and sanctions

2) Trans-Caspian route (TITR, Middle Corridor). Second best option to deliver Chinese goods and Kazakhstan’s exports to the EU. Fully operational, but requires capacity expansions.

3) China — Kazakhstan — Uzbekistan — Iran— Türkiye — EU (Southern corridor). Linking the EU and China through countries with the largest populations, including I.R.Iran and Türkiye.

4) China — Kyrgyzstan — Uzbekistan. The corridor linking the EU and China is under construction

Main challenges for SEA—NCA transport links:

1) NCA — SEA connections are currently not considered within dedicated comprehensive program resulting in development of economic cooperation corridor(s).

2) Inland transport enhancements are not targeted at decreasing trade costs for specific commodities.

3) There is no long-term economic and transport project planning and prioritizing system for the corridors.

4) For each existing route and corridors under construction there is a set of physical and non-physical barriers requiring international solutions.

Actions recommended upon establishment of the corridors management mechanism:

1) Establishment of current and future economic and transport profiles of subregion-to-subregion connectivity:

— Analysis of optimal transportation parameters for each traded commodity to understand optimal transport profiles for each route.

— Modelling of sufficiency of existing plans, top and bottom requirements.

— Agreement on the future backbone connectivity links.

2) Establishment of prioritizing system:

— Development Trans-Asian connectivity projects prioritizing methodology based on national, subregional and Asian wider economic effects from connectivity projects — in partnership with international development institutions.

— Agreement on the certification of projects and relevant certification centers — in partnership with international development institutions.

3) Corridors-based harmonization:

— Elaboration of multilateral agreements on the functioning of the system of commodity flows and infrastructure projects to ensure subregion-to-subregion connectivity.

— Continuation of improvements of border crossing procedures — also based on recommendations on previous ESCAP studies, including enhancement of seamless data interchange and electronic interoperability.

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