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Being one of the more sustainable modes, rail needs to be promoted proactively, to address many of the negative externalities of transport that have recently been exacerbated. The rapid increase in trans-continental freight trains over the last decade have firmly established role of rail in fostering sustainable transport connectivity between Asia and Europe and vice versa.

The resilience demonstrated by rail transport during the pandemic as well as need for digital and electronic information exchange underscored by the pandemic provides yet another opportunity to give big push to rail competitiveness by leveraging use of electronic information exchange for completing border formalities.

Efficient rail border crossings are one of the important elements for enhancing the competitiveness of international railway transport and therefore proactive measures are needed to address inefficiencies. Railway border crossings have complex environment with many competing stakeholders. All of them however need information to complete their task and therefore electronic information interchange at rail border crossing is important to improve the efficiency.

Electronic information exchange between railways and among railways and control agencies is, however, fragmented due to diverse legal and regulatory frameworks underpinning them. OSJD provides a comprehensive guidance on many aspects of electronic information exchange among railways through its agreements and various leaflets. The initiatives on electronic information exchange between railways and among railways and control agencies should precede with simplification and standardization of information requirements.

This recommendatory document has been prepared jointly by ESCAP and OSJD to provide railways and border agencies with insight into potential of electronic information exchange to streamline border crossing formalities.

The document has been drafted according to the recommendation of the International Inter-Agency Conference of the OSJD member countries "Practice of border crossing by rail" that took place in September 2021.

It is based on inputs received and wide ranging consultations that ESCAP carried under the project on harmonization of rules of regulations for facilitation of international railway transport (2016-2018) that culminated in the development of a draft framework on enhancing efficiency of railway border crossings along the Trans-Asian Railway network and beyond.

The draft framework was presented to the Committee on Transport at its fifth session that took place in November 2018 in Bangkok. As reflected in its report, the Committee welcomed the framework and took note of issues identified in the framework the foremost among them was electronic information exchange between railways and among railways and control agencies.

Areas where electronic information exchange can support streamlining border crossing processes include integrated risk assessment, use of new technologies, and joint execution of control measures both behind and across the borders. Customs formalities associated with rail transit can be simplified through electronic information exchange. A joint electronic interface between railways and other relevant stakeholders can provide for efficient exchange of information required for commercial, operational, and regulatory purposes.