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Laos-China rail link prospects increase

The Laotian and Chinese governments are negotiating the form of future cooperation to realise the US$7-billion (Bt223-billion) Boten-Vientiane rail link, with Laos seeking finance from China to fund the massive undertaking.

Vilaykham Phosalath, Laos' deputy minister of public works and transport, told a news conference at the National Assembly yesterday that negotiations were under way. Boten is a town in northern Laos on the Chinese border.

The governments of Laos and China have reiterated their intention to cooperate to realise the project to build the 421-kilometre track on several occasions. Both the planned Boten-Vientiane rail project and Thailand's railway programme will form part of the regional rail link known as the Kunming-Singapore rail line. It will cover 3,000km.

The high-speed line will run from China's Kunming all the way down to Singapore, passing through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

The Thai government recently approved the $23-billion high-speed rail project connecting the northern border province of Nong Khai with Map Ta Phut, southeast of Bangkok.

Chiang Khong, just across the river from Bokeo province in Laos, will also be connected to Ban Phachi in Ayutthaya province.

The construction of the Thai project, comprising two rail routes with a combined length of nearly 1,400km in total, will begin next year and should be completed by 2021.

Laotian officials said the decision of the Thai government to develop the high-speed rail project would give a boost to the realisation of the Boten-Vientiane link.

"It also sends an important signal for the regional link," Vilaykham said. "It represents potential and motivation for us to realise the project."

Laotian government spokeswoman Bounpheng Mounphoxay said previously that the administration was focused on developing the rail project. The government hopes the project will boost its efforts to turn landlocked Laos into a transport hub among countries in the region.

It has also signed another contract with a Malaysian investor to develop the $5-billion railway linking the central province of Savannakhet to Lao Bao on the Vietnamese border over a distance of 220km. Laos currently has only 3.5km of rail linking Thanaleng on the outskirts of the capital Vientiane to Thailand's Nong Khai province across the Mekong.


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