IRU NELTI home page

IRU activities on Revitalisation of the Great Silk Road

Road transport, interconnecting every business to every major world market all along the ancient Silk Road

Today, as a result of globalisation and the advent of maritime container transport, 80% of world trade is carried out through some 30 increasingly saturated ports, entailing bottlenecks, delays and ultimately higher costs all along the supply chain to the end consumer. These dynamics have led to the desertification of trade not only in ports’ hinterlands but also in all landlocked countries, impeding their economic development, thus often creating political and social tensions.

However, no country is landlocked to road transport. Two-thirds of the world’s population lives in Asia, working, producing and trading with the rest of the world – mostly through maritime transport. Only road transport, however, thanks to the high quality of its unique, flexible door-to-door services, is capable of interconnecting all the businesses located across the Eurasian landmass to the main world markets. 

Therefore, reopening the ancient Silk Road to trade by road transport not only offers an alternative for the transport of goods from Asia to Europe and vice versa, but, above all, drives economic and social development, political stability and, ultimately, progress, prosperity and peace in all countries along the 12,000-50,000 kilometres of the various itineraries of the Silk Road.

Supporting Sustainable Development on the Eurasian Landmass

In line with the UN Millennium Development Goals as well as the Almaty Programme of Action, and true to its commitment to achieve sustainable development, the IRU has been focusing its efforts and resources on reopening the ancient Silk Road in order to help all the businesses located along these routes to produce and to trade between one another and with the rest of the world, hence creating jobs, boosting GDP growth and increasing prosperity. 

Reopening the Silk Road does not imply 15,000 km journeys for a single truck. The purpose is, above all, to interconnect all businesses involved in a production chain through door-to-door road transport services, on short to medium distances.

But the possibility of an end-to-end journey, like an electrical wire, is essential to permit the development of trade and the interconnection of all businesses involved in a production chain. While these common goals are within reach, they can only be achieved if political priority is given to removing the numerous barriers to road transport.

Removing technical, administrative and financial barriers impeding international road transport

The study on “Land transport options between Europe and Asia” published by the US Chamber of Commerce in 2006 demonstrated the feasibility of such transport operations and also showed that such new road transport activities can still be dramatically improved, if we pull down the “invisible barriers” along the Silk Road resulting mainly from inappropriate procedures rather than a lack of infrastructure, as is commonly believed.

The challenges are numerous, however, as are the new opportunities brought about by facilitating relations among trading partners and integrating the various economies to those of other regions. In this light, the IRU has implemented several projects and pilot truck caravans over the past 10 years in order to monitor, collect and analyse data on the remaining impediments and non-physical barriers to road transport across the Eurasian landmass in order to provide accurate recommendations to all stakeholders in the region whose decisions and activities can positively impact the effective reopening of the Silk Road to trade by road transport.

Such projects include the Beijing-Berlin-Brussels Caravan in 2004, the Black Sea Ring Highway Caravan in 2007, the ongoing New Eurasian Land Transport Initiative (NELTI), as well as the ECO-IRU Silk Road Truck Caravan in 2010, which all significantly contributed to raise public authorities’ awareness of the need to further promote and facilitate road transport as the key to enhance economic and social development of the countries in the region.

Over the past decade, the Great Silk Road revitalisation project has become one of the priorities for the IRU. This has encouraged the IRU to organise specialised events to promote the development of road transport in the Euro-Asian region. Such events have included all kinds of fora with a focus on the development of Euro-Asian transport connections, IRU Euro-Asian conferences and World Congresses. IRU Caravans are also important events that promote the Silk Road project. Their purpose is to demonstrate that their routes may be efficiently used for the transport of goods. This section contains exhaustive information on past IRU events focused on the revitalisation of the Great Silk Road.

2011 6th Euro-Asian Road Transport Conference «Road transport: interconnecting every business and every transport mode between Europe and Asia»
2009 5th IRU Euro-Asian Road Transport Conference «The re-opening of the Silk Road: from vision to reality»

31st IRU World Congress: «Road transport, driving peace and prosperity» (Istanbul, Turkey, 15-16 May 2008)

2007 4th IRU Euro-Asian Road Transport Conference: «The road to success: Euro-Asian freight market challenges and opportunities» (Warsaw, Poland, 14-15 June 2007)
2006 31st IRU World Congress: «Road Transport, the Vital Link to Progress!»(Dubai, UnitedArabEmirates, 14-16 March2006)
2005 3rd IRU Euro-Asian Road Transport Conference: «Road transport: Bridging Asia and Europe» (Beijing, China, 26-27 September 2005)
2004 29th IRU World Congress: «Transport & Technology of Tomorrow» (Yokohama, Japan, 22-24 April 2004)
2003 2nd IRU Euro-Asian Road Transport Conference: «Boosting Road Transport along the Silk Road and the North-South Eurasian Transport Corridor» (Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 6-7 October 2003)
2001 1st IRU Euro-Asian Road Transport Conference: «Opportunities for and barriers to international road goods transport between Asia and Europe» (Irkutsk, Russian Federation, 13-14 September 2001)





44% transport time lost at borders in the Arab World according to preliminary NELTI-4 reports


Turkey supports Model Highway Initiative


UN Under-Secretary General says road transport is lifeline for landlocked developing countries


Arab Ministers bids farewell to the first TIR pilot trucks


Key UN multilateral trade and road transport facilitation instruments to boost LAS economies


Georgian governmental agencies support IRU Model Highway Initiative

Copyright © 2017 IRU, All Right Reserved.