The 35th ASEAN Railway CEO’s Conference was held in Chiang Rai, Thailand, from 28 October to 1 November with the declared aim of developing sustainable modes of transport in the region, in which rail has a full part to play. More than 200 participants from 10 countries were present at the ASEAN rail hub, with UIC participating as a sponsor, speaking on International Railway Standards with the aim of engaging the region’s railways in defining their needs and their implication in the many projects.
Effectively, by 2015 the countries of South East Asia need to set up an ASEAN rail community allowing them to be interoperable. This means that investment is required to build the missing links, setting up modern systems of signalling and train tracking, and opening up markets and railway operations, in particular for freight.
80% of transport infrastructure investment in the region will be in rail, in order to improve passenger and goods transport, but also to reduce energy consumption for transport which accounts for 35% of the regional total.
The major challenge for ASEAN is to standardize the performance and competitiveness of its transport systems when the infrastructure in countries like Malaysia and Thailand ranks in the top 50 in the world, with Malaysia in 20th place, whereas Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are down in hundredth position.
So ASEAN railways are counting on a “modal shift from road to cost effective modes of transport” to ensure 18% of their sustainability, while 52% will be linked to the improvement of interoperability and 28% to increases in mobility.
Finally, alongside the investment, it will be important for ASEAN to set up viable business plans, to ensure a virtuous circle in the rail system.
This virtuous circle, not limited just to rolling stock and infrastructure, will subsequently make it possible for financial risks and profits to be shared more equally between the future owners of the track and the operators, who could even, ultimately, participate in the maintenance of the infrastructure.