Skip to main content

EATL Study Overview

Overview of the EATL Study

Ministerial Meeting Logo
Joint Study on Developing Euro-Asian Transport Linkages  

The following text is a summary of the EATL Study taken from document ECE/TRANS/WP.5/2007/2. To download the entire document click here.

The elaboration of an in-house study was foreseen at the outset of the project. The study was intended to contribute to the formulation of an integrated transport network linking ECE and ESCAP regions, including SPECA countries, on the basis of country information and existing international transport networks under the general project’s title “Identification and formulation of interregional transport linkages and corridors”.

The study presents an in-depth evaluation of major land and land-cum-sea transport corridors between Asia and Europe and attempts to determine their potential viability. Country reports on highway, railway, and inland water transport networks and with relevant details on seaport connections for multimodal transport operations were prepared by the National Focal Points on the basis of the general work description and a uniform questionnaire.


First Draft Conclusions and Recommendations




Merchandise trade between Europe and East Asia grew rapidly over the last decade, reflecting to a large extent the dynamism of the export-oriented Chinese economy as well as the remarkable sustained recovery of economic activity in Russia and other resource-rich economies in the EECCA region. The rapidly expanding number of seaports and maritime routes handling the bulk of trade flows between East Asia and Europe could be complemented by Euro-Asian land transport links thus enhancing prospects for economic development not only in major emerging market powers such as China and Russia, but also Iran, Turkey, Ukraine and other countries along the Euro-Asian routes as well as the 10 landlocked countries participating in the EATL project (Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). The development of efficient Euro-Asian inland transport routes could provide additional transport options to the existing maritime routes, while at the same time be a solid development tool to countries in the Euro-Asian region, especially for the participating landlocked economies.

The landlocked countries along the Euro-Asian land bridge depend on each other for access to international markets. A weak or missing link in one country can render a whole route economically unviable for international transport. The persistence of non-physical bottlenecks, such as excessive documentation requirements, delays at border crossings, unofficial payments, and unexpected closures of borders, continues to discourage transport operators from exploring alternative routes. The result is that the countries spanning the Euro-Asian land bridge face relatively high transport costs, weakening their export competitiveness and preventing them from accessing new export markets that would boost their economic development.

Most of the identified Euro-Asian routes are intermodal as they have to cross the Caspian and Black Seas. This requires that interfaces between modes be as effective as possible so that transport operators would be able to optimize the performance of combined maritime, rail and road modes within the existing Euro-Asian routes.

The EATL project has achieved a number of tangible results to date. Based on the willingness of the 18 countries involved to cooperate as well as on inputs and proposals made by their national experts, the project:

  • Identified major rail, road and inland water routes connecting Europe and Asia to be considered for priority development;
  • Identified a number of key container depots, intermodal terminals and ports along the selected routes as well as the physical and non-physical obstacles to transport within the EATL network;
  • Created a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) database;
  • Prioritized 230 investment projects to develop transport infrastructure in 15 EATL countries;
  • Made an initial assessment of non-physical obstacles along the Euro-Asian routes;
  • Created a temporary coordinating mechanism in the form of the Group of Experts appointed by participating Governments.

The present in-house study has also identified serious obstacles to the smooth development of Euro-Asian land transport links that pertain to three strategic areas of action (infrastructure, facilitation, policy):

  • Coordinated development of the EATL infrastructure investment priorities (infrastructure related);
  • Harmonization and effective implementation of the regulatory framework (infrastructure and facilitation related);
  • Removing obstacles in transit transport and border-crossing operations along the EATL (facilitation related);
  • Improving the business environment in the road, rail and combined transport sectors (policy related);
  • Continuous monitoring of the project-related activities (policy related).




The ongoing cooperation between the 18 EATL Governments and the two United Nations Regional Commissions (ECE, ESCAP) ought to continue and, where possible, needs to be reinforced by implementing strategic actions. The following recommendations could contribute to making the best use of the results and the experience from the implementation of the present project.


>> Infrastructure

The forward-looking development of transport infrastructure requires considerable financial outlays and over a long period. This makes it a complex exercise, requiring Governments to strike a balance with other national priorities, weigh national versus international interests, ascertain the economic, social and environmental net benefits, coordinate programmes and timetables with neighbouring countries, determine the degree of private versus public participation and factor in security considerations.


In all countries along the Euro-Asian transport routes the transport infrastructure investment requirements significantly exceed the funds available. Therefore, the ESCAP and ECE secretariats sought to assist countries to identify, evaluate and prioritize viable investment projects along the Euro-Asian routes selected. Out of the 18 participating countries, 15 countries have submitted data on the EATL projects for evaluation and prioritization on the basis of an agreed methodology. The overall project costs and the results of the project evaluation process can be summarized as follows.


(a) Out of 230 submitted projects exceeding $42 billion:

  • Railway projects account for 54% of total investments cost;
  • Road projects for 29%;
  • Maritime projects for 13%, and
  • Inland water transport projects for 4%.

(b) Submissions have been prioritized in four priority categories:

  • With confirmed funding;
  • With funding to be confirmed;
  • Low priority projects, and
  • Projects requiring additional data before further required for evaluation.

Funding for 50% of the total investment costs ($21 billion) is secured for the implementation of 130 projects. Another 31% of planned investment (some $13 billion) is associated with high-priority projects that lack secure funding to date. Remaining infrastructure investment planned by the authorities is associated with the projects that were either classified in a low-priority category (7%) or could not be evaluated due to insufficient data (12%). It has to be emphasized that these results are preliminary.


The study makes the following recommendations with regard to infrastructure:
  • (a) It is of utmost importance to expedite the implementation of identified priority projects with secured funding to improve the competitiveness of Euro-Asian routes and relieve the major infrastructure bottlenecks identified by the Expert Group.
  • (b) Taking into account that work on definition and formalization of infrastructure network has been done by both the ECE and ESCAP in their respective regions, namely through the AGR, AGC, AGTC, AGN and the AH and TAR Intergovernmental Agreements, countries participating in the EATL should concentrate their efforts on incorporating all the identified Euro-Asian routes within these networks as well as increasing the degree of functionality and coherence within and between the existing European and Asian networks (e.g. alleviation of bottlenecks, interoperability). Efforts concerning network expansion should follow when a satisfactory level of demand as well as functionality and coherence will have been reached.
  • (c) The Euro-Asian infrastructure development strategy should be based on national Master Plans, elaborated by the EATL participating Governments based on the existing subregional and regional agreements on infrastructure as well as on the identified EATL. The national Master Plans and their funding possibilities would thereafter be considered in subregional, regional and interregional context, within the Euro-Asian infrastructure development strategy.
  • (d) In order to provide realistic information on the actual level of the investment expenditure needed to modernize the selected Euro-Asian routes, the reporting countries with incomplete data are encouraged to timely provide more detailed information so that the evaluation exercise can be completed with the existing resources.
  • (e). With a view to seeking funding of priority infrastructure projects, it is strongly recommended that experts from participating countries submit EATL project data on a permanent and continuous basis to the ECE and ESCAP. Both Regional Commissions should, in collaboration with International Financial Institutions, explore systematically the funding possibilities available for the implementation of priority projects.
  • (f) Political will and long-term commitment from the countries concerned are prerequisites for a successful implementation of the EATL investment programme; it is therefore recommended that this programme be included in the national plans for infrastructure development.


>> Facilitation

The development of infrastructure alone will not achieve the objective of ensuring the smooth movement of goods between Europe and Asia; much work is yet to be done to remove the non-physical obstacles related thereto. Removing of obstacles to international transport along the Euro-Asian transport routes should be the major focus of the countries concerned.

Border-crossing regimes need to be improved in a major way if Euro-Asian routes are to be more competitive than hitherto. Accession to international legal instruments (UN transport conventions, agreements, etc.) is important but cannot achieve much without the effective implementation of these instruments. The accession to and implementation of the international conventions requires political will and commitment of the countries involved in order to achieve a reasonable level of harmonization in terms of legislation, institutions and practices.

The ECE and ESCAP secretariats are prepared to continue working with countries, at their request, to assess the implications of acceding to and implementing the international legal instruments.

The study makes the following recommendations with regard to facilitation:

  • (a) The obstacles to the smooth movement of goods across international borders should be addressed in an integrated manner by all the authorities concerned and in consultation with the private sector. Partnership between the public and private sectors is indispensable to accelerate progress in transport facilitation.
  • (b) Countries participating in the EATL project should focus on capacity building. Particular emphasis on activities aimed at strengthening the capacities of national officials from the various agencies dealing with border-crossing formalities and procedures is advisable.
  • (c) The ESCAP time/cost-distance methodology should be used to identify and isolate the bottlenecks as well as for assessing the success of facilitation measures and the competitiveness of the identified routes with periodic snapshots.
  • (d) Greater and more effective effort is needed to promote, accede to and implement the international legal instruments relating to transport facilitation in general and in the area of border-crossing facilitation in particular.
  • (e) The establishment and strengthening of appropriate national trade and transport facilitation mechanisms with the participation of Government officials and representatives from the private sector, as appropriate, would be necessary in each of the EATL participating countries. This would also contribute to the coordination between the EATL Focal Points and other stakeholders.
  • (f) Sharing experiences and best practices among concerned countries as well as regular assessment and monitoring of progress at the major border-crossing points along the Euro-Asian transport routes should be permanent processes dealt with under the framework of EATL project.


>> Policy

Effective and efficient implementation of transport infrastructure and facilitation measures needs to be embedded in a sound policy framework in order to ensure sustainability. Thus, the EATL study elaborates a number of policy recommendations both for the international organizations and the countries concerned. These are the following:

  • (a) The project results of both infrastructure and facilitation exercises should be brought to the attention of the appropriate bodies in the ECE and ESCAP for consideration of potential follow up actions in the framework of their regular legislative and normative work.
  • (b) The establishment of a suitable mechanism ensuring efficient coordination and monitoring of activities related to Euro-Asian links is key. The existing Expert Group is well equipped to continue to coordinate and monitor these activities competently and the EATL participating Governments should assure its continuation.
  • (c) The following activities, among others, should be considered “best practices” on developing transport infrastructure and facilitation of international transport in Europe and Asia:
  • (i) the TEM and TER projects as well as their Master Plan;
  • (ii) the EU High Level Group;
  • (iii) the ESCAP time/cost-distance methodology;
  • (iv) the development of freight villages concept;
  • (v) TER project (for rail) and the IRU (for road) and border crossing monitoring activities;
  • (vi) the co-financing of the development and upgrading of the AH network;
  • (vii) the demonstration runs of container block trains.
  • (d) It is important to build on the experience gained from the implementation of the joint ECE-ESCAP Euro-Asian transport linkages project. This experiences includes the outcome of activities linked to the identification of priority routes, project prioritization, application of the time/cost-distance methodology, creation of a GIS database, new IT technologies, capacity building and continuation of the Euro-Asian transport linkages project.
  • (e) The continuation of the EATL project in a new Phase II (2008-2011) is of outmost importance. ECE and ESCAP have jointly elaborated and submitted for funding a concrete proposal for Phase II of the project. Sufficient funds need to be ensured.


Joint Study on Developing Euro-Asian Transport Linkages

Note verbale from the mission of Azerbaijan (PDF 2.9Mb)

Download the EATL Study in English (PDF 1.7Mb)

Download the EATL Study in Russian (PDF 6.5 Mb)