GEORGE TOWN, June 11 — Asean member states must keep pushing for improved integration by linking up the railway network to achieve greater free flow of goods within the region, said Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

He said rail connectivity, particularly to link up the railway network from peninsular Malaysia to Thailand, Laos and China, has been a long-term vision of Asean.

“If we can have this, then we can realise the Pan-Asian railway network because once you reach Kunming, you can reach Central Asia and even Europe. We have been talking about this the past 30 years.

“There has not been much progress on the Kunming-Singapore railway network even though there are already railway lines connecting these countries. However, there are missing dots and missing links,” he told a press conference after opening the 57th Asean Senior Transport Officials Meeting (STOM) here today.

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Besides the physical railway track, member states must also iron out issues regarding regulations and cross-border customs clearance for the region to have a streamlined journey for goods and passengers in the future.

Loke said Malaysia is conducting a preliminary feasibility study on the Trans-Borneo Railway project to explore the pros and cons in terms of the commercial, technical and other aspects of the proposed network to complement the existing transport networks in Borneo.

“The feasibility study will be completed in the next nine months and once that is done, we can decide how to move forward,” he said.

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The three-day 57th Asean STOM from today is attended by delegates headed by secretaries-general/permanent secretaries from Asean member states and Asean dialogue partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

Earlier, in his speech, Loke said that over the years, STOM has been a valuable and effective platform for Asean member states to deliberate on matters concerning the unique challenges and opportunities within the transportation sector in the region.

“Ever since the hosting of STOM and Asean Transport Ministers Meetings (ATM) by Malaysia in 2015, we have witnessed incredible efforts by the Asean Transport Bodies in implementing various initiatives as outlined in the Kuala Lumpur Transport Strategic Action Plan (KLTSP) 2016-2025.

“Deliberations under STOM are also consistent with the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 in creating a regional network of people and infrastructure to improve the way we live, work and travel,” he added. — Bernama