Consultative meeting on Lao People’s Democratic Republic joining the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways (pree-release)
On 10 February 2020, a consultative meeting was held on Lao People’s Democratic Republic joining the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways. The Lao PDR delegation was headed by Mr. Viengsavath Siphandone, Vice Minister, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and Mr. Miroslaw Antonowicz, Chairman of the OSJD Committee, was head of the OSJD Committee delegation.
The virtual meeting was also attended by a UNESCAP delegation led by Mr. Weimin Ren, Director, UNESCAP Transport Division.
The meeting was opened by Chairman of the OSJD Committee Mr. Miroslaw Antonowicz. In his welcoming remarks to the delegates, he noted that 2021 was a milestone year for the OSJD as the Organization marked its 65th anniversary since foundation. In this context, the officially declared interest of Lao PDR in joining the OSJD provided clear evidence of the Organization’s relevance, and was indicative of strong prospects that other States of South-East Asia would join the area that relies on the OSJD transport law.
Miroslaw Antonowicz pointed out that finding and implementing strategic solutions that would foster further advance and development of railway traffic between Asia and Europe was the core mission of the OSJD. Consequently, the OSJD’s efforts to improve and update the legal and technical regulatory framework were of great importance. The range of OSJD activities includes: the text of the Convention on Direct International Railway Traffic; improvement and development of 13 OSJD railway transport corridors; development of container and multimodal transport operations; facilitation of border crossing through simplification of border crossing procedures and wider application of the unified CIM/SMGS consignment note; organisation and implementation of express delivery of postal items and mixed consignments by rail; introduction of digital technologies into the transport and logistics sectors; strengthening cooperation with international transport organisations such as UNESCAP, UNECE, EU, EAEU, OTIF, ERA, CIT, WCO, UPU, UIC, CCTT, and others.
The Chairman of the OSJD Committee emphasized that the OSJD welcomes new members to the Organisation to expand international collaboration in transport and improve the efficiency of the railway industry as a whole.
In his intervention, Mr. Weimin Ren, Director of the UNESCAP Transport Division, focused on the negative impact of the pandemic on all economic activities, including transport. In that context, the demand for freight transportation between Asia and Europe continued to grow, especially for carriage by container trains.
In such an environment, UNESCAP and OSJD continued their joint efforts to increase the traffic volumes between Europe and Asia. To this end, the Organisations continued to hold virtual joint meetings and adopted a Joint UNESCAP- OSJD Declaration on strengthening international railway transport operations on the Trans-Asian railway network and beyond in response to the pandemic.
Mr. Weimin Ren also emphasized that UNESCAP attached great importance to the development of railway transport in the region, since it represents the most environmentally friendly mode of transport that was capable of ensuring sustainable mobility. In his view, the OSJD played a key role in bringing together the railway systems of the two continents, which was also very important for Lao PDR as the Republic was energetically developing its railways, and would foster the country’s social and economic growth.
Mr. Viengsavath Siphandone, Vice-Minister, LPDR Ministry of Public Works and Transport, noted that the LPDR was seeking to take its proper place as an important link in the global logistics chain where transport plays a key role.
It was for this reason that LPDR had increasingly focused on the construction and development of railways, with the efforts to build the over 400-km-long railway line from China to Vientiane, the capital of LPDR, nearing completion.
In this context, LPDR’s joining the OSJD would strengthen the transport connectivity with China and other Eurasian nations of not only Laos, but also of other countries of the Indochina Peninsula.
During the meeting, the LPDR delegation was provided detailed information on all aspects of the OSJD’s activities.
In his presentation, Deputy Chairman of the OSJD Committee Mr. Mikhail Vsevolozhskiy provided an overview of the mission, objectives, structure and operation of the OSJD.
Mr. Shukhrat Kayumkhodjaev, Chairman of the OSJD Commission on Transport Policy and Development Strategy, shared information on the activities of the Commission, highlighting the efforts to further develop the OSJD railway transport corridors and facilitate border crossing.
The Specialist of the OSJD Commission on Transport Law Ms. Jelena Antonevich reviewed the role of the SMPS and SMGS Agreements in ensuring seamless railway traffic between Asia and Europe, and the efforts to improve and update these Agreements and their Annexes.
In her presentation, Ms. Zubaida Aspayeva, Chairperson of the OSJD Commission on Freight Traffic, gave an account of the significant work on updating the ETT and MTT Tariffs, PGW Agreement, Harmonized Nomenclature of Goods (GNG) and its synchronization with the NHM. She also dwelled on the development of container and combined transport operations between Asia and Europe, and on the organisation of block container trains that had been adding to the number of regular routes every year (in 2020, there was a total of 10,180 block container trains runs between Asia and Europe).
The introduction of electronic document processing systems and electronic consignment notes would further reduce the duration of a transport operation, thus giving railway transport a better competitive edge over maritime transport.
Mr. Radovan Vopalecky, Chairman of the OSJD Commission on Infrastructure and Rolling Stock, dwelt on the subject of technical leaflets developed by the Commission for the purpose of ensuring interoperable traffic on the railways with 1435-mm and 1520-mm track gauges that would need no reloading of goods or transfer of passengers. He informed also about the ongoing cooperation with the UIC on migrating joint OSJD/UIC Leaflets into draft International Railway Solutions.
Executive Secretary of the OSJD Committee Mr. Attila Kiss summarized the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Vocational Training/ Education in Railway Transport, and the efforts to set up and operate the OSJD Academy.
The LPDR delegation was also provided with detailed information on the procedure for joining the OSJD, as well as the SMPS and SMGS Agreements.
The LPDR delegation reconfirmed the country’s interest in joining the OSJD as the railway line to China was nearing completion. The line is scheduled for commissioning at the end of 2021.
The LPDR was also interested in joining the SMPS and SMGS Agreements. The railway line may become an extension of one of the OSJD’s longest corridors, Corridor No. 1, and link together LPDR, Thailand, Singapore, and other countries of the Indochina Peninsula, connecting them with the railway network of China and other countries of the Eurasian continent. This would enable a seamless land transportation of passengers and freight both between the countries of South-East Asia, and from those countries to the rest of Asia and to Europe.
Concluding the meeting, Chairman of the OSJD Committee Mr. Miroslaw Antonowicz thanked all the participants for the constructive discussions and reemphasized that the OSJD would welcome the Lao People’s Democratic Republic as a member to enhance cooperation in railway transport not only on the Indochina Peninsula or South-East Asia, but also in the entire OSJD area.