With China's One Belt One Road initiative coming in full swing, it instilled new forces for greater connectivity across Asian economies. Among the areas getting a boost, is the Trans-Asian railway system.
The Southeast Asian section of the Trans-Asian Railways starts from China's Southwest city of Kunming, it runs through Vietnam, Cambodia, eventually ending in Singapore. The parts within Chinese territory is now partly built and the parts that connect Laos and Thailand is expect to start building this year.
"The railways are very important in connectivity building across Asian economies. Because it connects the Silk road economic belt and the maritime silk road," said Wang Gengjie, Chief Engineer of Kunming Railway Administration.
But the biggest obstacle in the way is the differences in railway gauges. Asian economies, notably Russia, China and Thailand, all have varying standards for railway sizes.
This problem, coupled with a lack of infrastructure funding, rendered the construction speed rather slow, even almost ten years after a Trans-Asian Railway Network Agreement was signed in 2006.
Experts say the founding of China's Silk Road Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will help bring much needed funding , and that the new high speed rail standard issued by the Chinese government this year will help unify standards.
"This will speed up the proccess of infrastructure developments. Many economies along the Belt and Road region are developing economies, where infrastructures lack behind. Building more railways is therefore a very sensible way of development," said Liu Bin, Researcher of NDRC.
Apart from the railway that runs through Southeast Asia, the Trans-Asian Railway Network Agreement also include rail lines in run through the Korean peninsula and Russia. Together these railways will amount to over 80 thousand kilometres and connect 28 countries.