Economic Conference

Nine Transportation Corridors in Northeast Asia and Their Discontinuous Points
KAWAMURA, Kazumi
Researcher, Research Division, ERINA, Japan

1. Nine Transportation Corridors in Northeast Asia

The focus of the transportation network in Northeast Asia has shifted from bilateral transportation, such as between Russia and Japan, to multilateral transportation via third countries, such as from China to Japan via Russia. It is now expanding further to outside the region, such as to Europe and North America. Flows of goods and people are the foundation for the activation of economic exchanges and regional economic development. The establishment and improvement of transportation corridors, with support for their activation and development, will promote these flows. With such common understanding, the importance of international transportation routes has been strongly advocated recently.

At the Northeast Asia Economic Conference 2000, ERINA suggested seven transportation corridors among some routes in the region as major routes for international trade and act as links between inland regions and the sea. Then, after discussions on two separate occasions at the Transportation Subcommittee of the Northeast Asia Economic Conference Organizing Committee (officially established in June 2000), two more corridors passing along the west or east coasts of the Korean Peninsula were added, and nine transportation corridors in Northeast Asia were specified. These corridors were selected not only because they passed from the inland of the Northeast Asian countries to the sea, but also to enable future expansion to Europe and Central Asia. Understanding and awareness are unified in the region by specifying the transportation corridors, and they will be a focal point for discussion about transportation issues.

The term "corridor" does not only mean "a course or route" as "hard" transportation infrastructure, as in railways and roads, but it also indicates a total transportation system including "soft" infrastructure, such as legal and various other systems. Such an idea to improve comprehensive "transportation corridors" was born in Europe. At the Second Pan-European Transport Conference held in Crete, Greece, in 1994, nine transportation corridors in Europe, the so-called "Crete Corridors," were specified. Related courtiers have been making efforts to achieve uniform standards in both hard and soft infrastructure. Taking into account these European movements, Northeast Asian transportation corridors must be developed to connect to these European corridors.

The nine transportation corridors specified at the Transportation Subcommittee are as follows :

[1] Taishet~Vanino Transportation Corridor (SLB~Taishet~Vanino)
[2] Siberian Land Bridge (SLB) Transportation Corridor (Europe~ports in Primorsky Territory in Russia)
[3] Suifenhe Transportation Corridor (SLB~Zabaikalsk~Manzhouli~Harbin~Suifenhe~ports in Primorsky Territory)
[4] Tumen River Transportation Corridor (SLB~East Mongolia~Changchun~Tumen River)
[5] Dalian Transportation Corridor (SLB~Blagoveschensk~Heihe~Harbin~Dalian)
[6] Mongolia~Tianjin Transportation Corridor (SLB~Ulaanbaatar~Beijing~Tenjian)
[7] China Land Bridge (CLB) Transportation Corridor (Europe~Kazakhstan~Lianyungang port)
[8] Korean Peninsula West Transportation Corridor (SLB~Harbin~Shenyang~Sinuiju~Pyongyang~Seoul~Busan)
[9] Korean Peninsula East Transportation Corridor (SLB~Khabarovsk~Khasan~Rajin-Sonbong~Busan)

Although these transportation corridors vary from fully utilized corridors to these still in the conceptual stage, they are expected to become major corridors for international transportation in the region in the future. In the description above, these corridors seem to include only land transportation. However, we should not forget that they will cross the seas and are supposed to be connected to Japan, the ROK, Southeast Asian countries and North America. The improvement of transportation corridors in Northeast Asia should be discussed with sea transportation in mind.

2. Overview of Transportation Corridors in Northeast Asia

The following is the brief outline of the nine specified transportation corridors in Northeast Asia.

[1] Taishet~Vanino Transportation Corridor

This corridor connects Vanino with Taishet, and then continues to the SLB at Taishet. It runs 400~500km north of the Siberian Railway, and serves as a substitute for the SLB Transportation Corridor. It also functions as a liaison route with Sakhalin. Important issues concerning this corridor are the improvement of the road between Vanino and Khabarovsk, measures to collect freight and maintaining transport capacity.

[2] SLB Transportation Corridor

This corridor is an international combined transportation system. Containers from Asia (mainly from Japan and the ROK) are carried to ports in Primorsky Territory in Russia (Vladivostok, Nakhodka, Vostochny), and then to Western Russia, Europe and Central Asian countries by the Siberian Railways and trucks (also the other way round). Income from fares from the Siberian Railway is an important source of foreign currency for the Russian railways. Since the actual amount of freight using this corridor is smaller than the capacities of ports and railroads at present, measures to collect freight are important for this corridor. Therefore, raising the competitiveness of services with "All Water" routes and maintaining the current transportation capacity is necessary.

[3] Suifenhe Transportation Corridor

This corridor is considered as an exit to the sea, using ports in Primorsky Territory, Russia, for Heilongjiang Province. It is also connected to Europe by the SLB Transportation Corridor via Manzhouli. As the Dalian Transportation Corridor, which is a main route for Northeast China, is congested, this corridor is expected to be an alternative. However, regarding railway transportation, transshipment is necessary at border crossings due to the difference in gauges between China and Russia. This kind of discontinuous point should be eradicated. Also, if silos are built for soybeans, corn and rice, to be exported at the ports in Primorsky Territory, this corridor will be utilized more.

[4] Tumen River Transportation Corridor

This corridor is considered as an exit to the sea for Mongolia and Jilin Province. It also serves the purpose of reducing the heavy dependence on the Dalian Transportation Corridor. Tumen River Transportation Corridor has two alternative routes: one is a route using ports in Russia, and the other one is a route using Rajin port in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The improvement of infrastructure is an issue for both routes. Regarding railway transportation, there is a discontinuous point at the border crossing between China and Russia due to the difference in gauges. The railway between China and the DPRK is obsolete, and it is not used for freight from China. Both railways and roads at the border crossing between China and Mongolia are not connected. Mongolia and China have agreed to build a temporary wooden bridge on the river at the border.

[5] Dalian Transportation Corridor

This is the main artery running through three northeast provinces in China between south and north. This corridor is connected to the SLB via Manzhouli, and will be connected via Heihe in the future. Regarding railway transportation, an inland container depot has been built in Harbin, and two container train services a week are operated to Dalian. It has been pointed out that the railway between Harbin and Dalian is very congested. Electrification of the railway is in progress, in order to improve transportation capacity. Regarding road transportation, the construction of a highway is also in progress between Harbin and Dalian. The section linking Changchun and Dalian has been completed, with the remaining sector lying between Chanchung and Harbin.

[6] Mongolia~Tianjin Transportation Corridor

This is a corridor running through Mongolia between south and north and to the sea via Tianjin, which is the shortest route for Mongolia to access the Asia-Pacific countries. Presently, railway transportation is in operation due to the underdeveloped road between Ulaanbaartar and the border crossing with China. Transshipment is necessary at border crossings due to the different railway gauges in China and Mongolia. Also, Mongolia is strongly affected by the situation in China, as the corridor runs through Chinese territory and uses Chinese trains and ports.

[7] CLB Transportation Corridor

This corridor starts at Lianyungang and goes to Kazakhstan, reaching Central Asia and Europe. Although there is a discontinuous point between China and Kazakhstan due to the difference in railway gauges, a large-scale transshipment facility is prepared to deal with the burden. Since a ROK's automobile factory was located in Uzbekistan, a significant amount of parts for the factory have been transported. However, the factory has been cut down now, so the amount is decreasing. Therefore, measures to collect freight are important issues.

[8] Korean Peninsula West Coast Transportation Corridor

This route connects the ROK with the DPRK by means of the restoration of the Kyongui Railway (between Seoul and Sinuiju), extending to China and then to Europe by reaching the SLB Transportation Corridor. The improvement of this corridor will not only contribute to activating economic exchanges between the ROK and the DPRK by promoting transportation between the two countries, but will also open-up various convenient transportation means for ROK freight to Europe and Central Asia. 20km of the Kwongui Railway between Munsan in the ROK and Bongdong in the DPRK is not connected. However, this is planned to be completed by autumn of 2001. The border crossing between Sinuiju in the DPRK and Dandong in China is already connected by a road and railway bridge over Yalu River by both road and railway.

[9] Korean Peninsula East Coast Transportation Corridor

This corridor passes along the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, on to the Rajin-Sonbong Economic Trade Zone, and is then to be extended to the SLB Transportation Corridor via the Khasan region in Russia. The development of this corridor will promote freight transportation between the ROK and the DPRK, as well as helping to secure the land transportation route from the ROK and the DPRK to Europe by connecting to the SLB Transportation Corridor. In order to develop this corridor, the completion of the railway between the ROK and the DPRK is crucial. Early completion is desirable. The DPRK and Russia is connected only by railway, but it is not used much recently due to the decrease of Russian freight. The railway between the border and Chongjin has both standard gauge and broad-gauge(4-rail track). At present, there is no transshipment facility. A transshipment facility is necessary at the border crossing between the DPRK and Russia in order to fully utilize this corridor, which connects the ROK, the DPRK and Russia.

3. Major Development Related to Transportation in Northeast Asia

There were several major developments related to transportation in Northeast Asia in 2000. As for new routes: [1] the railway between Hunchun (China) and Makhalino (Russia) began operating in February 2000; [2] a ferry service between Sokcho (ROK) and Zarubino (Russia) opened in May, and a route to reach Hunchun using this service. The restoration work on the railway between the two countries after the Inter-Korean Summit meeting was also a great development.

There have been other developments in the improvement of roads and railways in each country and in the region, such as the completion of a high grade road between Hunchun and Quanhe. Also, there have been some developments in "soft" infrastructure, such as the extended operation time (to 12 hours) of the road customs facility in Suifenhe, the area of extension for trucks passing through this customs has been expanded to Harbin and Vladivostok. Since there have been many discussions about the improvement of the routes between the two countries, such as the above mentioned Inter-Korean Summit meeting, progress in concrete projects is expected.

4. Discontinuous Points in Transportation Corridors in Northeast Asia

There are still some "discontinuous points," although the improvement in both "hard" and "soft" infrastructure is in progress. The discontinuous points in the transportation corridors in Northeast Asia, significantly preventing smooth transportation, exist near border crossings. They are as follows:

[1] Discontinuous points caused by unconnected railways or roads.
[2] Discontinuous points caused by the differences in railway gauges.
[3] Discontinuous points caused by the CIQ(*) examination at border crossings.

The current situation of the discontinuous points in border areas among the nine transportation corridors in Northeast Asia is shown in Table 1. Since all areas have discontinuous points as a result of the CIQ check related to border crossing, discontinuous points due to the CIQ check are excluded from the table.

The eradication of these discontinuous points is essential for smooth transportation through the transportation corridors in Northeast Asia.

In order to eradicate the above-mentioned: [1] it is desirable to connect points which are discontinuous as a result of unconnected roads or railways, through cooperation among the related countries.

It is desirable to remove [2] discontinuous points caused by differences in railway gauges. Also, the strengthening of loading and unloading facilities for the improvement of freight transshipment capacity, and freight standardization (containerization) for higher work efficiency, is required. Moreover, technology development, such as the introduction of free gauge trains, is desirable.

In order to eradicate [3] discontinuous points caused by CIQ examinations, the improvement of CIQ facilities, as well as soft infrastructure, such as the mitigation of border crossing regulations, the shortening the time for border crossing by the simplification and standardization of procedures, and the extension of the office hours at border crossings, is desirable.

There are also some other discontinuous points other than those at border crossings.

  • Discontinuous points at ports (transshipment between sea and land transportation)
  • Discontinuous points related to the classification work for railway freight
  • Discontinuous points caused by single track railways or ferries crossing large rivers

5. Towards the Further Development of the Transportation Corridors in Northeast Asia

As international transportation crosses multiple countries, land and sea, smooth border crossing and smooth connection between ports, railways and roads is required. To achieve these, the above-mentioned discontinuous points must be dissolved one by one through the cooperation of Northeast Asian countries. Following cases in Europe, the establishment of certain criteria for both hard and soft infrastructure to make current transportation routes become international transportation corridors, and improving them to meet these criteria, should be effective. To set standard criteria means to have common targets for the future in related countries. Clear goals for the future of the transportation corridors as a whole, not only individual route, i.e. "Vision of the future Development of Transportation Corridors in Northeast Asia," must be formulated. This common vision should be formed by people in charge of transportation and specialists in related countries, utilizing the function of the Transportation Subcommittee established in 2000.

It is strongly required that each country recognizes the importance of the improvement of transportation corridors serving as a basis for the activation of economic exchanges and regional economic development, continue to make efforts to realize plans and strengthen the system among countries in Northeast Asia.



(*) Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine.

Table 1: Discontinuous Points near Borders in Transportation Corridors in Northeast Asia

No. of
Corridor

Name of Place
(Country)

Name of Place (Country)

Kind of Discontinuous
Points

Current Situation

2

Malaszewicze
(Poland)

Brest
(Belarus)

Gauge difference
Freight transshipment
Bogie exchange
4-rail track, 2 single lines

3

Zabaikalsk
(Russia)

Manzhouli
(China)

Gauge difference
Freight transshipment
Bogie exchange
4-rail track, 2 single lines

Suifenhe
(China)

Grodekovo
(Russia)

Gauge difference
Freight transshipmen
Bogie exchange,
4-rail track

4

Choybalsan
(Mongolia)

Yirshi
(China)

Unconnected
railway and road
The construction of a road bridge over the river at the border has been agreed.

Makhalino
(Russia)

Hunchun
(China)

Gauge difference
Freight transshipment
Bogie exchange,
4-rail track

5

Blagoveschensk
(Russia)

Heihe
(China)
Crossing big river Amur River is crossed by boat, but the construction of a bridge has been agreed.

6

Naushki
(Russia)

Suhbaatar
(Mongolia)

-
Conneced railway and road

Zamyn Uud
(Mongolia)

Erenhot
(China)

Gauge difference
Freight transshipment
Bogie exchange
4-rail track, 2 single lines

7

Druzhba
(Kazakhstan)

Alashankou
(China)

Guage difference
Freight transshipment
Bogie exchange,
4-rail track, 2 single lines

8

Dandong
(China)

Sinuiju
(DPRK)

-
Connected by a bridge for both road and railway

Bongdong
(DPRK)

Munsan
(ROK)

Unconneced railway and road
Kyongui Railway: under construction to be completed in autumn 2001

9

Khasan
(Russia)

Tumangang
(DPRK)

Guage difference
4-rail track to Chongjin

Pyongkang
(DPRK)

Cholwon
(ROK)

Unconnected railway and road
Kyong-Won Line: restoration is planned as a second stage after Kyongui Railway

Kisung
(DPRK)

Cholwon
(ROK)

Unconnected railway and road
Kumgangsan Line: restoration is planned as a second stage after Kyongui Railway

Note: All areas have discontinuous points due to CIQ examination related to border crossing.
Only other discontinuous points other than this are shown in the table.


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