Asian Highway Network
The Asian Highway (AH) project, also known as the Great Asian Highway, is a cooperative project among countries in Asia and Europe and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), to improve the highway systems in Asia. It is one of the three pillars of the Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development (ALTID) project, endorsed by the ESCAP commission at its 48th session in 1992, comprising Asian Highway, Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) and facilitation of land transport projects.
Agreements have been signed by 32 countries to allow the highway to cross the continent and also reach to Europe. Some of the countries taking part in the highway project are India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China, Japan, South Korea and Bangladesh. Most of the funding comes from the larger, more advanced Asian nations like Japan, India and China as well as international agencies such as the Asian Development Bank.
The project aims to make maximum use of the continent's existing highways to avoid the construction of newer ones, except in cases where missing routes necessitate their construction. Project Monitor, an Asian infrastructure news website, has commented that the:
|“||early beneficiaries of the Asian Highway project are the planners within the national land transport department of the participating countries [since] it assists them in planning the most cost-effective and efficient routes to promote domestic and international trade. Non-coastal areas, which are often negligible, are the other beneficiaries.||”|
However, in the mid-2000s some transportation experts were sceptical about the viability of the project given the economic and political climate in both South and South-East Asia.
- 1 History
- 2 Implications
- 3 Regional perceptions of the project
- 4 Highway 3 (North-South Corridor) issues
- 5 Routes
- 6 Numbering and signage
- 7 First car crossing
- 8 Route log
- 9 Distance by country
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The AH project was initiated by the United Nations in 1959 with the aim of promoting the development of international road transport in the region. During the first phase of the project (1960–1970) considerable progress was achieved, however, progress slowed down when financial assistance was suspended in 1975.
ESCAP has conducted several projects in cooperation with AH member countries step by step after the endorsement of ALTID in 1992.
The Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network (IGA) was adopted on November 18, 2003, by the Intergovernmental Meeting; the IGA includes Annex I, which identifies 55 AH routes among 32 member countries totalling approximately 140,000 km (87,500 miles), and Annex II "Classification and Design Standards". During the 60th session of the ESCAP Commission at Shanghai, China, in April 2004, the IGA treaty was signed by 23 countries. By 2013, 29 countries had ratified the agreement.
India is hopeful that the mega project will continue to bring it and Pakistan closer, as a furtherance of the earlier resumption of bus and train services between the two countries after decades of hostilities.
The advanced highway network would provide for greater trade and social interactions between Asian countries, including personal contacts, project capitalizations, connections of major container terminals with transportation points, and promotion of tourism via the new roadways.
However, rights groups in Southeast Asia monitoring the North-South Corridor segment were concerned with the remote area's rapid development resulting in significant increases to exposure of HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and the possible exploitation of the surrounding forests and wildlife resources.
Regional perceptions of the project
According to Om Prakash, an advisor in New Delhi: "It's an excellent step taken by ESCAP to gather all the Asian countries under one crown but the problem with this project is political disputes between some countries, notably Pakistan and Myanmar, which is delaying the project".
Sanjoy Hazarika of the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research commented: ""The  agreement between Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand needs to be considered by India as an international link for trade, while retaining the presently designated AH route through Tamabil, Bangladesh, and Imphal, India." As well, he also stated: "Given its extensive geographical coverage and the recent move to integrate it with other means of transportation, the Asian Highway project requires collective effort and close collaboration among the Asian countries."
Highway 3 (North-South Corridor) issues
The North-South Corridor Project of has been part of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) agenda since 1993 and aimed to improved the connected economies of China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. The portion of the North-South Corridor known as Highway 3, which runs through northwestern Laos and connects China and Thailand, was expected to cost US$95.8 million and was being financed with a loan from the ADB, along with funds from the Chinese, Thai and Lao governments.
The completed sections of the road have gone from being little more than dirt roads a few years ago to two-lane routes with concrete shoulders, drainage and concrete bridges. The journey from the Lao border town of Huai Xai to the southwestern Chinese border village of Boten situated in southwestern Yunnan province took as long as two days on the old mostly dirt road depending on weather conditions. The new roadway shortened that trip to five to six hours.
The route was expected to be completed in 2007, but damage to the road from floods during the 2006 rainy season pushed the completion date into 2008. While the road was now made passable all year, there are still sections, some of several kilometers in length, which remained unfinished as of 2008.
Construction of the Thai-built portion of the road lagged behind that of the Chinese section, but some observers contend that was because the Thai section was "much better constructed". They indicated that the Chinese side was built faster because of engineering shortcuts which may make that section of the road less durable.
The most significant problem with the corridor was the lack of progress on a bridge to be built across the Mekong River connecting the Thai town of Chiang Khong, with its cross-border neighbour of Huay Xai in Laos. The Chinese and Thai governments earlier agreed to build the bridge and share the estimated USD 33 million dollar cost of the project.
The Thai cabinet approved the project in February 2007 with an expected completion date in 2011, but many remain skeptical that the schedule will be met since successive Thai governments since the late 1980s have similarly promised to undertake the project.
Thai border disputes with Laos, the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, political indifference in Bangkok and a general reluctance on the part of Thais have kept the project on the political 'back burner'. China meanwhile is anxious to develop its land-locked Yunnan province through the creation of trade links with Southeast Asia, including access to Thailand's sea ports. While Thailand may benefit broadly from a new road link with China, others feared a flood of inexpensive Chinese products will impoverish northern Thais.
Some of those fears came to pass with the early implementation of some provisions with the Chinese-Thai free trade agreement, which resulted in a flood of inexpensive Chinese agricultural products. As of 2008, the last incomplete link to Laos represented a significant barrier to efficient trade between the two countries and some commented that was the reason for Thai procrastination on the bridge's completion. Bangkok might also have been using the bridge as a bargaining chip for trade negotiations with Beijing, since the Chinese appeared to increasingly value the route's completion.
Until the bridge's completion, the portion of the AH-3 North-South Corridor remains both incomplete and inefficient. As of 2008, Chinese goods destined for Thailand had to be ferried across the Mekong River between Chiang Khong and Huay Xai and many shippers have expressed their concerns that the ferry costs and Lao customs duties were too expensive, and traders also complained about the lengthy time required for Lao customs procedures and inspections.
Although Laos was pressured to eliminate transit taxes, the cash-short government remained hesitant, in part because China and Thailand were seen to benefit disproportionately from the completed roadway. Currently almost all China-Thailand trade is conducted by shipping up and down the Mekong River, with goods taking from 10 to 15 days to reach their destination.
As of 2008 the water route were suffering from frequent problems of inadequate levels to keep large cargo barges afloat, a situation which is likely to occur more frequently when more of China's planned dams on the river's upper reaches become functional in the future. The economic benefits of the roadway to Laos, meanwhile, are still undetermined.
Highway 3 (North-South Corridor) development issues
While the AH-3 highway was expected to increase business and trade through increased market access to both China and Thailand, including the country's agribusiness and tourism sectors, the Lao government appeared more open to increasing state revenues through the collection of transit fees and taxes on goods that arrived at its borders. It was also under pressure from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to embed new costs into the already low intra-regional trade.
According to people involved in the tourism industry in northwestern Laos, while Western tourists were arriving in increasing numbers, tourists from neighbouring Thailand and China often pass only through Laos on their way to Boten on the Chinese border, where there is a large casino and a market.
In addition to reaping less economic benefits, Laos will also likely have to deal with disproportionate social and environmental costs, people monitoring the project say. Without proper control mechanisms in place, the region's opening would disproportionately benefit government-connected business groups while displacing large numbers of the non-ethnic Lao groups currently living in the area.
A 2002 ADB report estimated that approximately 2,500 people (500 households) might have to be relocated due to the road project; some monitoring groups put the real number much higher. Although resettlement plans were drafted by the ADB to compensate for the loss of houses, land, rice granaries and shops, it was not clear that the funds were truly reaching the people most affected.
Among the issues involved was the resettlement of the original Lao inhabitants of Boten village near the Chinese border, who were moved a kilometer or more down the road to allow the construction of a new Chinese-owned casino, hotel and other commercial developments. The resettled Botens complained that their new site lacked services, and that the land set aside for them was smaller and less fertile than their original land. As well, others complained about rampant land grabs adjacent to the new road by government-connected traders and businessmen who established shops and other businesses on the new prime real estate. A lack of formal land deeds or proper court systems meant there was little justice available to the displaced residents.
The legal vacuum also allowed an increasing flow of Chinese migrants, many of whom first arrived to work on the road and who then stayed on to establish businesses along the road, including whole new villages, which further aggravated those previously resettled to less fertile land.
Rights groups were also concerned with the remote area's rapid development resulting in increases to exposure of HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and the possible exploitation of the surrounding forests and wildlife resources.
While the ADB's original hopes that the route would reduce transportation costs for the movement of vehicles, goods and people, and also promote faster economic growth, as the 7,300 km North-South Corridor neared completion in 2008 the real costs and benefits of the project for the local populations of Southeast Asia were still in doubt.
Route AH1 is proposed to extend from Tokyo to the border with Bulgaria west of Istanbul and Edirne, passing through both Koreas, China and other countries in Southeast, Central and South Asia. The corridor is expected to improve trade links between East Asian countries, India and Russia. To complete the route, existing roads will be upgraded and new roads constructed to link the network. US$ 25 billion has been spent or committed as of 2007, with additional US$ 18 billion needed for upgrades and improvements to 26,000 km of highway.
Numbering and signage
The project new highway route numbers begin with "AH", standing for "Asian Highway", followed by one, two or three digits. Single-digit route numbers from 1 to 9 are assigned to major Asian Highway routes which cross more than one subregion. Two- and three-digit route numbers are assigned to indicate the routes within subregions, including those connecting to neighbouring subregions, and self-contained highway routes within the participating countries. Route numbers are printed in the Latin script and Arabic numerals and may simply be added to existing signage, like the E-road network.
The actual design of the signs has not been standardized, only that the letters and digits are in white or black, but the color, shape and size of the sign being completely flexible. Most examples feature a blue rectangular shield with a white inscription (similar to German Autobahn signage) with further examples of white on green and black on white rectangular shields.
First car crossing
Following the AH1 and the AH5 from Tokyo (the Highway grid's furthest point East) to Istanbul (furthest West), they drove a total of 12089 km (7512 miles) before joining the European motorway network for another 3259 km (2025 miles) to London.
Including ferry trips and customs clearance delays, the journey took 49 days and crossed 18 countries.
The completed route was verified by Aston Martin and the UN's Asian Commission (UNESCAP) in Bangkok, whose director of transport and tourism Barry Cable confirmed "I can warrant that, to my best knowledge, this was the first car to undertake this journey".
Meredith, a travel author and veteran of distance-driving events, agreed to make the attempt after attending the Asian Highway Treaty's "coming into force" ceremony in Bangkok on July 4, 2005.
He was lent an Aston Martin v8 Vantage which had previously been the personal transport of the company's chief executive Dr Ulrich Bez and recruited Phil Colley, a linguist and travel expert from Kennington, South London, to be his co-driver. The car was shipped out to Tokyo by the company and they set off on June 25.
Although the trip was facilitated by UNESCAP through its member nations, there were still extensive problems including enforced detours and interminable customs clearance delays in China, pot-holed roads in Kazakhstan and leaded-only fuel in Uzbekistan. In Tbilisi, Georgia, the journey car crashed after being left on a hillside with its handbrake unsecured.
When the record-setting car returned a welcome-home reception was staged by Aston Martin at the Park Lane Hotel in London and Meredith later received a civic award from his home town of Milton Keynes.
The car was sold at auction in December 2007 by Bonhams and the proceeds donated to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. In March 2008 a total collection of 83,000 euros was presented to UNICEF China for a campaign to reduce child deaths on the roads of Beijing.
Single-digit routes run across the whole continent:
- AH1, 20,557 km (12,848 miles); Tokyo, Japan to border between Turkey and Bulgaria (with AH5)
- AH2, 13,177 km (8326 miles); Denpasar, Indonesia to Khosravi, Iran
- AH3, 7,331 km (4582 miles); Ulan-Ude, Russia (on AH6) to Tanggu, China; and Shanghai, China (on AH5) to Chiang Rai, Thailand and Kyaing Tong, Myanmar (both on AH2)
- AH4, 6,024 km (3765 miles); Novosibirsk, Russia (on AH6) to Yarantai, Mongolia; and Ürümqi, China (on AH5) to Karachi, Pakistan (on AH7)
- AH5, 10,380 km (6488 miles); Shanghai, China (on AH3) to border between Turkey and Bulgaria (with AH1)
- AH6, 10,475 km (6547 miles); Busan, South Korea (the start of Jungang-no Road) to border between Russia and Belarus
- AH7, 5,868 km (3667.5 miles); Yekaterinburg, Russia to Karachi, Pakistan (on AH4)
- AH8, 4,718 km (2949 miles); border between Russia and Finland to Bandar Emam, Iran
10-29 and 100-299 are assigned to Southeast Asia:
- AH11, 1,588 km (992.5 miles); Vientiane, Laos (on AH12) to Sihanoukville, Cambodia
- AH12, 1,195 km (747 miles); Nateuy, Laos (on AH3) to Hin Kong, Thailand (on AH1)
- AH13, 730 km (456 miles); Oudomxai, Laos (on AH12) to Nakhon Sawan, Thailand (on AH1/AH2)
- AH14, 2,077 km (1298 miles); Hai Phong, Vietnam to Mandalay, Myanmar (on AH1/AH2)
- AH15, 566 km (354 miles); Vinh, Vietnam (on AH1) to Udon Thani, Thailand (on AH12)
- AH16, 1,032 km (645 miles); Đông Hà, Vietnam (on AH1) to Tak, Thailand (on AH1/AH2)
- AH18, 1,042 km (651 miles); Hat Yai, Thailand (on AH2) to Johor Bahru Causeway, Malaysia
- AH19, 459 km (287 miles); Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand (on AH12) to Bangkok, Thailand (on AH2)
- AH25, 2,549 km (1593 miles); Banda Aceh, Indonesia to Merak, Indonesia (on AH2)
- AH26, 3,517 km (2198 miles); Laoag, Philippines to Zamboanga, Philippines
30-39 and 300-399 are assigned to East Asia and Northeast Asia:
- AH30, 2,739 km (1712 miles); Ussuriysk, Russia (on AH6) to Chita, Russia (on AH6)
- AH31, 1,595 km (997 miles); Belogorsk, Russia (on AH30) to Dalian, China
- AH32, 3,748 km (2342.5 miles); Sonbong, North Korea (on AH6) to Khovd, Mongolia (on AH4)
- AH33, 575 km (359 miles); Harbin, China (on AH6/AH31) to Tongjiang, China
- AH34, 1,033 km (646 miles); Lianyungang, China to Xi'an, China (on AH5)
40-59 and 400-599 are assigned to South Asia:
- AH41, 948 km (592.5 miles); border between Myanmar and Bangladesh to Mongla, Bangladesh
- AH42, 3,754 km (2346 miles); Lanzhou, China (on AH5) to Barhi, India (on AH1)
- AH43, 3,024 km (1892 miles); Agra, India (on AH1) to Matara, Sri Lanka
- AH44, 107 km (67 miles); Dambulla, Sri Lanka (on AH43) to Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
- AH45, 2,030 km (1269 miles); Kolkata, India (on AH1) to Bangalore, India (on AH43/AH47)
- AH46, 1,967 km (1,222 miles); named Great Eastern Highway within India from its East Coast to West Coast - Hazirah-Surat-Jalgaon-Howrah(Kolkata) till AH2.
- AH47, 2,057 km (1286 miles); Gwalior, India (on AH43) to Bangalore, India (on AH43/AH45)
- AH48, 1 km (.625 miles); Phuentsholing, Bhutan to border between Bhutan and India
- AH51, 862 km (539 miles); Peshawar, Pakistan (on AH1) to Quetta, Pakistan (on AH2/AH7)
60-89 and 600-899 are assigned to North Asia, Central Asia and Southwest Asia:
- AH60, 2,151 km (1344 miles); Omsk, Russia (on AH6) to Burubaital, Kazakhstan (on AH7)
- AH61, 4,158 km (2599 miles); Kashi, China (on AH4/AH65) to border between Russia and Ukraine
- AH62, 2,722 km (1701 miles); Petropavl, Kazakhstan (on AH6/AH64) to Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan (on AH76)
- AH63, 2,434 km (1521 miles); Samara, Russia (on AH6) to Guzar, Uzbekistan (on AH62)
- AH64, 1,666 km (1041 miles); Barnaul, Russia (on AH4) to Petropavlovsk, Russia (on AH6/AH62)
- AH65, 1,250 km (781 miles); Kashi, China (on AH4/AH61) to Termez, Uzbekistan (on AH62)
- AH66, 995 km (622 miles); border between China and Tajikistan to Dushanbe, Tajikistan
- AH67, 2,288 km (1430 miles); Kuitun, China (on AH5) to Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan (on AH62)
- AH68, 278 km (174 miles); Jinghe, China (on AH5) to Ucharal, Kazakhstan (on AH60)
- AH70, 4,832 km (3020 miles); border between Ukraine and Russia to Bandar Abbas, Iran
- AH71, 426 km (266 miles); Dilaram, Afghanistan (on AH1) to Dashtak, Iran (on AH75)
- AH72, 1,147 km (717 miles); Tehran, Iran (on AH1/AH2/AH8) to Bushehr, Iran
- AH75, 1,871 km (1169 miles); Tejen, Turkmenistan (on AH5) to Chabahar, Iran
- AH76, 986 km (616 miles); Polekhumri, Afghanistan (on AH7) to Herat, Afghanistan (on AH1/AH77)
- AH77, 1,298 km (811 miles); Djbulsarcj, Afghanistan (on AH7) to Mary, Turkmenistan (on AH5)
- AH78, 1,076 km (672.5 miles); Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (on AH5) to Kerman, Iran (on AH2)
- AH81, 1,143 km (714 miles); Larsi, Georgia to Aktau, Kazakhstan (on AH70)
- AH82, 1,261 km (788 miles); border between Russia and Georgia to Iveoqlu, Iran (on AH1)
- AH83, 172 km (107.5 miles); Kazakh, Azerbaijan (on AH5) to Yerevan, Armenia (on AH81/AH82)
- AH84, 1,188 km (742.5 miles); Doğubeyazıt, Turkey (on AH1) to İçel, Turkey
- AH85, 338 km (211 miles); Refahiye, Turkey (on AH1) to Merzifon, Turkey (on AH5)
- AH86, 247 km (154 miles); Askale, Turkey (on AH1) to Trabzon, Turkey (on AH5)
- AH87, 606 km (378.75 miles); Ankara, Turkey (on AH1) to İzmir, Turkey
Distance by country
The planned network runs a total of 87,799 miles (140,479 km).
- Afghanistan, 4,247 km
- Armenia, 958 km
- Azerbaijan, 1,442 km (901.25 miles)
- Bangladesh, 1,804 km (1127.5 miles)
- Bhutan, 1 km (0.625 miles)
- Cambodia, 1,339 km (837 miles)
- China, 25,579 km (15,978 miles)
- Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), 1,320 km (825 miles)
- Georgia, 1,154 km (721.25 miles)
- India, 11,432 km (7,145 miles)
- Indonesia, 3,989 km (2,493 miles)
- Islamic Republic of Iran, 11,152 km (6,970 miles)
- Japan, 1,200 km (750 miles)
- Kazakhstan, 13,189 km
- Kyrgyzstan, 1,695 km (1,059 miles)
- Lao PDR, 2,297 km (1,436 miles)
- Malaysia, 1,595 km (997 miles)
- Mongolia, 4,286 km (2,678.75 miles)
- Myanmar, 3,003 km (1,877 miles)
- Nepal, 1,321 km (826.6 miles)
- Pakistan, 5,377 km (3,360.6 miles)
- Philippines, 3,517 km (2,198.1 miles)
- Republic of Korea, 907 km (566.9 miles)
- Russian Federation, 16,869 km (10,543.1 miles)
- Singapore, 19 km (11.9 miles)
- Sri Lanka, 650 km (406.25 miles)
- Tajikistan, 1,925 km (1203.1 miles)
- Thailand, 5,112 km (3195 miles)
- Turkey, 5,254 km (3,283.75 miles)
- Turkmenistan, 2,204 km (1,377.5 miles)
- Uzbekistan, 2,966 km (1,853.75 miles)
- Vietnam, 2,678 km (1,673.75 miles)
- International E-road network
- Arab Mashreq International Road Network
- Trans-Asian Railway
- Japan-Korea Undersea Tunnel
- Eurasian Land Bridge
- Kamat, Rahul The Great Asian Highway, Project Monitor website, 31 January 2005. Retrieved 2009-05-05
- McCartan, Brian Roadblocks on the Great Asian Highway, Asia Times website, 23 January 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-05;
- "Priority Investment Needs for the Development for the Asian Highway Network", accessed July 14, 2007
- Newswire, Tourism Commission of the International Geographical Union website. Retrieved 2009-05-05;
- Letter 2007-07-09 Janette Green, Director Brand Communications, Aston Martin, Gaydon CV35 0DB, England
- Letter 2007-18-10 Barry Cable, Director Transport & Tourism Division, United Nations ESCAP (Economic & Social Commission for Asia & the Pacific), Bangkok 10200, Thailand.
- (2008) Driven Together Published by Mercury Books on behalf of Word Go Ltd. Page vi (ISBN 9780954143244)
- Tracking and map log Letter and data 2007-28-09 Dr Sebastian Archer, Solutions ARchitect, EurowatchCEntral Ltd, London EC4Y 0HB.
- Driven Together - Outside Back Cover.
- Aston Martin on the Asia-Pacific Highway AutoRacing.com, 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2010-01-01
- Driven Together - Various
- Reuters Aston Martin drivers set Asian Highway record NZ Herald, 2007-15-08. Retrieved 2010-01-01
- Wilkinson, Stephen Hammer Down on Asia's Interstate Highways Concierge.com, 2007-23-08. Retrieved 2010-01-01
- British Pair Drive Aston Martin into the Record Books Aston Martin, 2007-14-08. Retrieved 2010-01-01
- Milton Keynes Citizen 2007-13-09 "Aston adventurer safely home" Page 26
- MK News 2007-12-09 "Records shattered on drive home from Japan" Page 22
- Record-Breaking Aston Martin to be Sold Bonhams, 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2010-01-01
- 103-year-old Rolls Royce sells for a record £3.5m at auction Mail Online, 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2010-01-01
- Milton Keynes Citizen 2008-11-03 "Aston adventure" Page 2
- The project homepage
- Asia signs up to 'new Silk Road' BBC News report (April 26, 2004)
- UNESCAP press release announcing treaty
- 2003 Asian Highway Handbook (PDF)
- Pakistan's Gwadar to Afghanistan, China road declared Asian Highway
- Driven Together, Historic first crossing of Asia's new Highway to the West