Interoperability and in-between destinations pivotal for EU-Asia connection

Map of available routes

The implementation of a fully interoperable connection of the corridors between Eu-Asia is of priority. Additionally, the provision of technical knowledge to countries that are part of the New Silk Road, and the improvement of their infrastructure is equally important. This is Miroslav Haltuf’s perspective, regarding the initiatives that could accelerate developments on the Eurasian rail connections.

Miroslav Haltuf is the Vice-chairman of the Shift2rail SRG. He is a speaker at the European Silk Road Summit, which takes place online on 10 and 11 November. During an extensive presentation, he will introduce new ways in which rail freight can be more efficient; punctuality and reliability more than other transport modes.

Shift2Rail and its Research and Innovation projects provide new and innovative solutions, on the rail sector, with an application in the EU, as well as out of it. The New Silk Road and the wider Asian rail corridors are among the targets that can benefit from potential developments. “Technically we can do everything. We are only in the beginning, and we need to move forward and make progress”, said Haltuf, with regards to the interoperability and digitalisation of the EU-Asia rail connections.

China and regional destinations

The connection between EU-China constitutes a central component of the New Silk Road. Currently, one of the plans that intend to optimise its rail services focuses on paperless transportation. “We are at the beginning, but there are technologies that can bring paperless transport in the market, and systems are ready for that”, mentioned Haltuf. However, the legal gap in interoperability is among the challenges that this enterprise faces. Consequently, there is a need for negotiations that will enable the use of one transport document by all types of modes.

Besides China, Haltuf underlined and urged the importance of paying attention to other destinations too. “Europe can and should provide technological implementations to the countries in-between”, he said. Countries like Russia, Mongolia, and Afghanistan are essential, and, thus, should connect with the EU, but also with each other. Such a development could introduce new and large capacities for rail freight, while it could also substitute air transport for specific types of goods. It might sound like an ambitious vision, but it can certainly prove reliable if the safety of products and security during transportation are obtained.

Future of EU-Asia connections

With eyes focused on the broader region of Asia, Haltuf explained the possibilities that exist in connecting more countries with Europe, by rail. For instance, South Korea and Japan could acquire rail routes that would connect them with the Asian hinterland. Respectively, this would also enable them to gain access to Europe and establish direct corridors.

Nevertheless, such a scenario requires large investments in infrastructure and time for the conduction of studies that would ensure its feasibility. Simultaneously, it is an indication that rail can gain even more space in transcontinental transport. After all, “during 2020 rail proved in practice that it has sufficient capacities to cover Eurasian transportation, even with higher numbers of trains than before”, Haltuf concluded.

European Silk Road Summit

Do you want to hear all about the developments on the New Silk Road in 2020? On 10 and 11 November, the online edition of European Silk Road Summit 2020 takes place. The impact of the pandemic, the current volumes and the forecasts for the year to come are other topics on the programme. Have a look here or register here.

Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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