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15 Nov, 2012

Work set to roll in 2013 on Laos-China railway


Vientiane, Vientiane Times, 15 Nov 2012 – Construction of the US$7 billion high-speed railway linking Vientiane to the Laos-China border is set to kick off next year, with the project scheduled for completion in 2018, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Deputy Minister Latta-namany Khounnyvong told Vientiane Times on Thursday that Laos and China are now ironing out the details of the loan agreement with EXIM Bank of China, to cover the cost of construction.

Mr Lattanamany said a project feasibility study and survey of the proposed route have been completed, as part of the prior agreement reached between Laos and China regarding the project, which was to be a 30/70 partnership.

Under the new arrangement, Laos has resolved to take full ownership of the project, but a new survey and feasibility study will not be required, as only minor changes and adjustments will need to be made to the existing study and route.

Mr Lattanamany said the government will contract the construction work out to a Chinese company, which will be responsible for building the railway itself and other essential preparations to enable the project to get underway next year.

Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad told the National Assembly in October that the government would set up the Lao Railway Company to oversee the construction of the railway, which will be the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Laos.

He said the government is planning to source and supply the necessary skilled personnel and sufficient manpower. It will also make arrangements for local villagers to grow and supply the food needed by the construction gangs.

Planning is also underway to prepare the various pieces of legislation required to build the railway and to cooperate with the Thai authorities on linking up with their railway at the Lao-Thai border.

Mr Somsavat said the railway is essential for Laos to integrate with the rest of the region and the world. It is also crucial to attracting more foreign investment, boosting tourism and bolstering economic growth.

Laos is a land-locked country and the lack of road and rail infrastructure means transport costs are high, making access to international markets less competitive.

With Laos having been gra nted WTO membership and the Asean Economic Community set to come into effect in 2015, the government has seen the importance of railway development, in order to benefit from regional integration, Mr Somsavat said.

The railway line from Vientiane to the Laos-China border will be about 420 km long, with a standard gauge track 1.435 metres wide. The railway will require 76 tunnels and 154 bridges to be built, comprising 60 percent of the total route.

Passenger trains will run at s peeds of 160 kph while goods trains will travel at a maximum speed of 120 kph. A 50-metre wide section of land will be cleared along each side of the railway for its entire length, and will be f enced off for security reasons.

At tunnels, however, the width of the land cleared will extend to 100 metres, while at major train stations parcels of land measuring 3,000 by 250 metres will be allocated for development. The project will include 31 stations in total, but the government plans to open 20 stations initially and the rest at a later date.

The railway will pass through the provinces of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay, Luang Namtha and on to the Chinese border.