Asean to be connected by roads and railways

by Duangkamol Buranasomphop

Asean to be connected by

            Countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) need to collaborate in creating more road, rail and maritimelinks to connect with the major transport routes in each country in order to create true connectivity, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). 

            More roads and rail lines from Asia’s two biggest economies – China and India – are gradually being extended into Asean through the GMS countries. Their completion could bring about major changes in the way goods are shipped to and from Asia, as well as reduce costs and improve competitiveness

            India recently announced plans to build a highway running from Kolkata to Ho Chi Minh City via Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. China’s trade, meanwhile, could benefit from the Singapore Kunming Rail Link (SKRL), which will greatly facilitate logistics from Asia’s largest economy to the world’s fastest growing region. Some transport planners even like to spin visions of being able to drive from Shanghai to Paris without a hitch. 

            However, for most countries the real work still remains to be done at home. They need to create better internal linksfrom their rural hinterlands to backbone road, rail and maritime networks, said Arjun Goswami, director for regionalcooperation and operations coordination in Southeast Asia with the ADB. 

            The GMS countries have plans on the drawing board for backbone transport linking Yunnan and Guanxi provinces in China with the countries in the Mekong basin: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. These five countries along with Yunnan cover 2.6 million square kilometres with a combined population of 326 million.

            Road density for Asean nations also remains low, averaging about 11 kilometres per 1,000 people (in Myanmar thefigure is just 2km). According to the World Bank, road density in 2009 in Laos was 17 km of road per 100 square kilometres of land area. The figure for Thailand in 2006, the last year for which data were available, was 35 km.

            With movement of goods and people expected to expand rapidly after 2015 when the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is formed, already strained transport systems will be overwhelmed. Quality improvement of road networks, missing railway links, inadequate maritime and port infrastructure all need to be addressed.  

            Thailand and Laos have been doing their part with three bridges over the Mekong River and plans for a fourth, costing 1.4 billion baht, between Chiang Rai in northern Thailand and Bo Keo in Laos


Duangkamol Buranasomphop

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