The 14th Meeting of Heads of Railway Authorities of ECO Member States/8th Railway Committee of TTCC (MHRA) was held on 20-21 June 2019 in Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan.
The Meeting was inaugurated by the First Deputy Minister of Transport of Republic of Tajikistan H.E. Mr. Sohrab Mirzozoda. Mr. Ahmad Saffari, Director for Transport and Communications of ECO Secretariat, on behalf of H.E. Dr. Hadi Soleimanpur, ECO Secretary General welcomed the delegates. High level Delegations from the ECO Member States updated the Meeting on prospective progress on railway development, at national level and regional level. Official representatives of International Organizations, including ESCAP, IsDB, ADB, UIC, OTIF and UNECE contributed to the Meeting by sharing views, suggestions and constructive proposals on the betterment of regional railway connectivity, common access, and safety.
In line with recommendations of Turkmenbashi Declaration adopted by the 9th Meeting of Ministers of Transport of ECO Member States (1-3 May 2019, Turkmenistan) the Meeting reviewed progress relating to operationalization of existing railway routes by completing rehabilitation and construction of missing links. Along this path, the Meeting noted considerable progress on railway projects: Qazvin-Rasht-Astara (Azerbaijan)-Astara (Iran) and Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul. Pre-operationalization steps for the existing railway routes have been developed: (i) on KTI, the need to ensure that the implementation of the Study Project on KTI be realized timely, in line with its set schedule was highlighted and the Inter-Governmental Agreement was said to be in place for endorsing Common Management Mechanism for the route; (ii) on Istanbul-Almaty & Bandar Abbas-Almaty routes, no sharp issues were revealed ج¶ for regular run of container trains and, thus, pre-operationalization plan was agreed to be put up for endorsement by the upcoming meeting of enroute countries.
The construction of KTAI railway project was discussed, in detail, as were new routes designed to improve regional railway connectivity in ECO. In line with recommendations of Dushanbe Communiqué (17-18 April 2018, Tajikistan) new ways of widening the ECO regional connectivity by rail were discussed. From this stance, a new railway project “Afghanistan-Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China” was endorsed for implementation.
The need for transforming ECO’s existing railway routes into economic spaces with structured integrated economic and free trade hubs with production sources in close proximity with supply chains so that railway services could further maximize on large scale spillover effects of such zones has been emphasized.
The Meeting also agreed to cooperate on railway passenger transport. Prerequisite arrangements for the proposed railway transport mode were quoted by Iran, Azerbaijan and others. The passenger tourist train was said as tested in the direction of Mashhad (Iran)-Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) and those ECO countries that have an interest in improving their tourism potentials by transport means were welcomed. The participants suggested issuing ECO Railway Maps, Annual Railway Transport Statistical Year Book and compile ECO Railway Directory for the purposes of information and knowledge sharing.
The subsequent 15th Meeting of Heads of ECO Railway Authorities/9th Railway Committee Meeting of TTCC was agreed to be held in Iran in 2021.