Now more than ever, the region’s development is reliant on its transport system. Whether to carry manufactured and agricultural products to international markets, food to rural and urban communities, workers to their jobs, the young to schools or the sick to hospitals, transport is essential. While development patterns across the region vary, countries that have been able to improve transport capacities and efficiency have been the most successful in achieving sustainable development.

By supporting the development of an intermodal regional network, incorporating the Asian Highway network, the Trans-Asian Railway network and the network of Dry Ports, ESCAP works to strengthen connectivity, optimize the use of existing infrastructure and increase the level of integration between the different transport modes.

While infrastructure development is a prerequisite for achieving regional connectivity, tackling non-physical barriers to cross-border and transit transport is also essential. To this end, ESCAP promotes the unhindered and safe movement of vehicles, goods and people across borders and through countries of the region through the establishment of regional facilitation frameworks, assistance in formulating and implementing facilitation agreements, development of models and standards, provision of facilitation tools and the harmonization of documentation and procedures. ESCAP also assists countries in developing transport logistics policies and in enhancing the quality of transport through improving the skills of logistics service providers and transport professionals.

The extensive enabling role of transport in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is materialized with integrating economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development into transport connectivity agenda in a balanced manner which can be achieved through an integrated intermodal transport and logistics system. The integrated intermodal transport and logistics system is a transport system that optimizes the needs of transporting goods and passengers; minimizes consumption of energy, land and other resources; generates low emissions of greenhouse gases, ozone depleting substances and other pollutants; and minimizes the adverse social impacts arising from transport operations.

In addition to regional transport infrastructure development and transport facilitation efforts, to achieve SDGs 1, 2, 3 and 11, ESCAP promotes transport policies to achieve safe, affordable, and accessible passenger and freight transport systems for both urban and rural communities. ESCAP supports member States in strengthening their capacities to move towards more sustainable and inclusive transport, with focus on the road safety, urban mobility, better rural connectivity and intelligent transport systems for all, including the poor and the vulnerable communities.

Whilst transport remains a main driver of economic growth, it is also a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution in the region. ESCAP supports member States in their efforts to achieve SDGs 11 and 13 based on the environmental and social comparative advantages of various transport modes.

Asian Highway

The Asian Highway network is a regional transport cooperation initiative aimed at enhancing the efficiency and development of the road infrastructure in Asia, supporting the development of Euro-Asia transport linkages and improving connectivity for landlocked countries.

Trans-Asian Railway

The Trans-Asian Railway network now comprises 117,500 km of railway lines serving 28 member countries. Much like yesterday's Silk Road, today's Trans-Asian Railway aims to serve cultural exchanges and trade within Asia and between Asia and Europe. However, the network covers a much wider territory than its legendary predecessor and, needless to say, reaches a much larger population.

Dry Ports and Intermodal Transport Linkages

While the economies of ESCAP Member States are still reliant on exports to developed countries, intra-Asia trade is playing an increasingly important role in the region’s overall exchanges. In this context, for the region to keep its economic vitality, it is important that a collaborative vision leads to the establishment of an efficient region-wide transport and logistics system that match new intra-regional trade flows.

Transport Facilitation and Connecting Subregional Transport Networks

Transport connectivity plays a central role in regional and subregional integration and is critical for enhancing economic cooperation, closing development gaps and enabling sustainable development. To achieve such connectivity, both infrastructure development, the ‘hardware’ of connectivity, and the facilitation of cross-border and transit transport, the ‘software’ of connectivity, need to be in place.

Transport Logistics

In many countries of the region, the logistics industry is still at a nascent stage and therefore faces challenges associated with high costs and poor performance. While some countries in the region rank among the best by international standards, the logistics performance of many of the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states still lag behind. As a result, logistics costs in many ESCAP member and associate members account for a significant proportion of gross domestic product (GDP).

Financing and Private Sector Participation

There is massive demand for investment in the transport sector in terms of infrastructure and services as well as maintenance. Most countries are however constrained by limited budgets and borrowing capacity. Optimising the use of resources available and seeking alternative financing mechanisms are critical in this context for developing, operating and maintaining transport infrastructure.

Sustainable and Inclusive Transport

Transport accounts for more than a quarter of all energy use and one fifth of CO2 emissions around the globe. To reduce these negative externalities, regional solutions are needed today that will support sustainable development, solutions which are fuel efficient and which reduce pollution, congestion, crashes, injuries and deaths on the roads, while meeting the needs of business, people and our planet.

Inter-Island Shipping

The provision of efficient, reliable and affordable shipping services to, from, between and with island and archipelagic developing countries presents a number of unique constraints and challenges. Such a provision, however, is vital in helping to bring about economic and social benefits to the people living in Asia and the Pacific. Inter-island shipping is one of the key areas of ESCAP’s work in the field of transport and ESCAP has been advocating for policies to strengthen inter-island shipping and logistics in the Pacific Island Countries, including through high level meeting gathering countries and specialized agencies and organizations active in the region.

Intelligent Transport Systems

The recent progress in information and communication technologies, such as smart mobile devices, wireless telecommunications, automated computer technologies and electronic automotive equipment, have revolutionized transport systems globally. Severe traffic problems such as traffic congestions and road safety increase the necessity of applying these technologies in transport systems in the form of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).