||The RS-CDTA would define the scope and purpose of the GMS Railway Coordination Office, its long-term objectives and a plan for its initial operation and financing for 5 years. This would be done in close consultation with the GMS countries. The key activities would be: (i) review the GMS Railway Strategy Study which was the technical report of the Strategic Framework; (ii) consult with the GMS countries to determine national needs and preferences for implementing GMS cross-border traffic, handling of interface issues, such as payment clearance, adaptation of immigrations, health and customs procedures and any other legal and regulatory issues that would need to be resolved to facilitate seamless railway cross border traffic, and the scope for private sector involvement; (iii) based on the country consultations, prepare a time-bound long-term outline plan for implementing the physical, institutional, operational and regulatory conditions that would enable GMS cross-border railway traffic on national and trans-national level, clearly identifying the proposed GMS Railway Coordination Office's role and activities to facilitate this; (iv) define the scope of the activities of the proposed GMS Railway Coordination Office to facilitate establishing and operating GMS cross border railway traffic; (v) carry out a workshop with the GMS countries and development partners to confirm the long-term implementation plan, and the proposed scope for GMS Railway Coordination Office operations; (vi) prepare Terms of Reference for the GMS Railway Coordination Office; (vii) prepare a business plan for GMS Railway Coordination Office operations for the first 5 years; (viii) prepare a resource budget for GMS Railway Coordination Office operations and identified activities over the first 5 years; (ix) prepare a proposal for financing of the GMS Railway Coordination Office over the coming 5 years; (x) carry out a workshop with the GMS countries and development partners to review and endorse the terms of reference, business plan for the first 5 years and the budget and financing plan for the GMS Railway Coordination Office; (xi) prepare the study draft final report for comment and endorsement at the 15th GMS Subregional Transport Forum in Lao PDR in 2011; (xii) present the draft final study report at the 15th GMS Subregional Transport Forum; and (xiii) prepare the final report for endorsement by the GMS Governments.
|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The need for the RS-CDTA follows from the GMS Ministers' endorsement of the Strategic Framework for Connecting the GMS Railways (Strategic Framework) at the GMS Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi in August 2010. The Strategic Framework proposes establishing a GMS Railway Coordination Office to facilitate the planning and establishment of a fully integrated GMS subregional railway system, and developing and facilitating the creation and future operation of institutions and operational procedures required to enable efficient cross-border railway traffic.
All the GMS countries except for Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), which did not have a railway until a railhead was established near Vientiane and connected to Thailand's railway in 2009, have long established nationwide railway systems that were mostly built in the early 20th century. At their creation, the national railways were integrated across borders (Thailand with Myanmar and Cambodia, and Viet Nam with People's Republic of China [PRC]) but events before, during and after World War II lead to disruption of many of these interconnections. As a result, most of the national railways in the GMS have not been interconnected for 40 or 50 years. The exception is Viet Nam and PRC, which have two railway interconnections between Hanoi and Kunming, and between Hanoi and Nanning.
With the advent of rapid economic development in the subregion over the last 10-15 years, and the associated expansion of subregional trade between the GMS countries, the need for greater efficiency in bilateral railway traffic has become compelling. Reliance on long distance road transport is not sustainable in terms of energy costs and climate impact, nor in terms of road safety, road capacity impact and national strategies to counter existing and potential shortages of natural resources. As a result, the GMS countries have forcefully embarked on developing their railways to supplement or supplant long-distance road transport particularly to support internal and external trade.
Achieving subregional railway connectivity requires physically reconnecting the national railway systems, but that is not enough. Railways are highly integrated transport systems and having been insular organizations for about half a century means that the national railways in the GMS have been developing in different directions when it comes to standards that are necessary for effective interconnection. One issue is technical compatibility, such as between the standard gauge track used in the PRC, and the meter gauge track used in the rest of the GMS. Other issues are equally important, such as: loading gauge (the outside dimension of loaded wagons), and breaking and coupling standards, which are no longer universally compatible. Another issue is the absence of the procedures and institutions required to facilitate cross border operations such as a clearing facility for payments between the national railways for multi-country railway movements and a mechanism for exchange of day-to-day operations information between the national railways. The absence of effective integration of customs, health and immigrations procedures into railway operations is an additional challenge.
The Strategic Framework proposes to address these issues by: (i) developing subregional interconnection standards for technical and operational integration of the national railways; (ii) developing the institutions and procedures required to effectively integrate the national railways; (iii) developing national adaptation plans aimed at preparing the national railways to participate effectively in cross-border railway traffic in physical, operational and procedural terms; (iv) establishing the first operating multi-country GMS railway line no later than year 2020; and (v) establishing a GMS Railway Coordination Office to coordinate and facilitate these activities and the subsequent operation and development of the GMS railway system.