Amid a global railway revival, Beijing has ambitious plans to connect Asia with Europe
Centuries ago the Orient supplied
At both ends of the route, rail systems are being developed and modernized apace. In
Of the four identified by the commission, the northern route already exists. It is based largely on the Trans-Siberian rail-way, the world's longest route, begun in a blaze of tsarist fervour in 1891 and completed in 1916. Electrified and double-tracked, it runs 9,250 kilometres from
The Trans-Siberian is capable of trans-porting 100 million tonnes of freight a year, but is almost saturated. An alternative is needed. The North-South routes, giving the former Soviet states of
It is the central corridor, via
A new rail ferry has been opened across
There is already a line running from
Three big obstacles are still holding up the completion of a Trans-Asian network, however: the different rail gauges; the need for agreed transit permits; and the unstable politics in central
The gauge question was once formidable. The entire Soviet system uses a 1,520mm gauge.
All passenger trains running from
Any East-West route would encounter a number of such changes: at the borders of
More difficult to coordinate is the bureaucracy. A train travelling through six or seven railway administrations needs agreed paths, customs clearances and permits. Who would coordinate the flow of international freight trains is unclear, and the chances of delay and opportunities to demand bribes are immense
Perhaps the most difficult issue, though, is politics.
One alternative is to build a line through western
For more than a century, plans have been around to lay rails through
Similarly, plans for a cross-Caucasus line via
All these schemes depend on vast investments, and most countries are looking to
Meanwhile, other regions are proposing transnational systems.
Perhaps, in the end, like the old caravan routes, there will be a multiplicity of options, all broadly connecting the East and the West. Until the politics and the economies of the region can be better aligned, however, piecemeal progress is all that can be expected.
- Bizarre Belligerence on the Korean Peninsula
- Considering a Departure in North Korea's Strategy
- United States, South Korea Ready to Counter North Korean Aggression
- Philippines Hopes Better Credit Rating Will Draw Investors
- Basketball Diplomacy, Pyongyang Style
- Is International Pressure Failing in Sri Lanka?
- Georgia's Armed Forces: Army of the All or Army of the Few?
- China Begins Efforts to Lift Veil on Officials' Assets
- New Internet Regulations Provide Window into North Korea
- New Faces, Old Tensions in East Asia
- India's Middle-Class Dilemma
- India: Misogyny in Bollywood
- North Korea May Have Finally Gone Too Far
- Chinese Silk Railroad Ambitions
- Keeping The Dream on Track
- Lessons from William Dalrymple's 'Return of a King'
- Indonesia Tries 'Cloud Seeding' to Prevent Flooding in Jakarta
- Six Australian Rugby Teams Investigated for PED Use
- 30 Million Pilgrims Take Holy Dip at India's Kumbh Mela
- Spiritual Guru Launches 'Volunteer for a Better India' Campaign
- Why Civil Registration Matters in Asia
- China: When Soft Power Fails
- Powering the Pacific 'Pivot' With Leon and Chuck
- Dark Days for Okinawa
- North Korean Nuclear Test Could Worsen China Relations
- South Korea to Implement New UN Sanctions Against North Korea
- Korea: The Case for Withdrawal
- Ferocious, Weak and Crazy: The North Korean Strategy
- Pakistan Coming Apart at the Seams
- Afghanistan Bribes Totaled Nearly $4 Billion
- The Long Struggle for Moro Autonomy in the Philippines
- Despite Increasing Prosperity, Vietnam's Appetites Remain Unique
- Food Security Still Major Issue in Southeast Asia
- Vietnam is a Country to Watch
- Continued American Presence in Afghanistan Recipe for More Disaster
- China Bans Ads for Luxury Goods
- Fresh Outbreak of Nipah Virus in Bangladesh
- Economists Optimistic About China's 2013 Outlook
- United Nations Calls for North Korea Human Rights Inquiry
- Time to End the Korean War
- India Orders 'Aggressive' Response to Kashmir Provocation
- Political Rally Shuts Down Pakistani Capital
Copyright © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc. "Chinese Silk Railroad Ambitions"