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Trans-Asian rail network agreement to be signed on Nov 10

Beijing. November 7. INTERFAX-CHINA - Transportation ministers from throughout Asia will take a step closer towards the creation of a railway network spanning the entire continent in South Korea on Friday.

The ministers will sign an agreement to create the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) in Pusan during the Ministerial Conference on Transport convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

During Friday's meeting, 15 member countries will sign the agreement to create four major rail routes crisscrossing the world's biggest continent, with other members expected to sign at a later date.

China has sent a delegation of more than 25 officials, and is also expected to sign the treaty on Friday, said Margaret Hanley, the UNESCAP spokesperson.

The initiative, which was first conceived almost 50 years ago, is designed to connect up existing national rail routes, she said.

The northern corridor will connect China with the Korean Peninsula, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, China will also play a part in an ASEAN rail link as well as a route stretching from Turkey via Iran, India and Burma.

China has already completed the bulk of the railway construction required to connect it with the rest of Asia, creating a network that stretches from the Alataw Mountain Pass on the Kazakh border to the eastern coastal port of Lianyungang in Jiangsu Province.  

Officials in Lianyungang are so excited by the prospects of a rail route all the way to Rotterdam that they have already erected a monument to the "New Eurasian Land Bridge" at what will be its easternmost point.

A representative with Lianyungang's port company said that eastern China would soon have another more reliable method to transport its goods all the way to Western Europe.

China's ambitious Qinghai-Tibet railway link also went into operation earlier this year, and there are further plans to expand the domestic rail network in Xinjiang and Yunnan.

China has also already signed bilateral agreements with Kyrgystan and Kazakhstan on rail link-ups, as well as a deal with ASEAN on a road and rail network connecting Kunming in Yunnan Province with Singapore.

-DS

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