Laos, China, Thailand agree to speed up work on regional rail link

The news was updated on April 15, 2019.

Authorities in Laos, China and Thailand have agreed to speed up the construction of railways to link the three countries, a Lao minister has said.

The Minister of Public Works and Transport, Dr Bounchanh Sinthavong, told local media recently that the agreement was reached when he met his Thai counterpart and Chinese authorities in Beijing last month.

Lao and Chinese authorities have agreed to complete the construction of the railway line linking the Lao capital of Vientiane with the Chinese border by the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which falls on December 2, 2021.

As of February 28 this year, construction of the 414-km Laos-China railway was 61 percent complete.

At the same time the Thai government will push for completion of the Thai-China high-speed railway linking Bangkok and Nong Khai by 2023, so that it can be connected to the track in Laos, the Bangkok Post reported recently.

The 608-km Bangkok-Nong Khai railway is divided into two phases. The first comprises the 253-km section from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima while the second phase, measuring 355 km, will link Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai.

The Beijing meeting called for Thailand to speed up construction, Dr Bounchanh said, referring to work on the second phase.

“We reached consensus that construction [of the railways in Laos and Thailand] should be completed at times that more closely match,” the minister said.

The Beijing meeting agreed to make use of Chinese rail technology and use the 1.435-meter standard-gauge railway.

The meeting also agreed to build a new Laos-Thailand Mekong Friendship Bridge designed to specifically accommodate the railway. The bridge will be located about 30 meters south of the existing first Laos-Thailand Mekong Friendship Bridge.

Dr Bounchanh said work is in progress to build a 14.5-km section of track to link the new bridge to a station on the Laos-China railway at Dongsanghin village in Xaythany district, Vientiane.

“This section is in the plan and a detailed design is being drawn up,” he said.

The Beijing meeting also discussed preparations to provide logistics services once the regional railway is operational.

Thailand plans to build a logistics center on its soil, located about 9 km from the bridge, according to Dr Bounchanh.

Laos also plans to build a logistics center on its side. In this regard, Laos has authorized Chinese rail experts to carry out a feasibility study for a logistics service plan. Once the study is complete, it will be submitted to the government for consideration.

The Laos-China and Thai-Sino railways are part of a planned regional rail network to link China with Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

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