Laos has made a US$7-billion (Bt219 billion) rail link between Vientiane and the Chinese border its priority transport project, media reported yesterday on the eve of a presidential visit to Beijing.
The Laotian government at a meeting last week adopted the 421-kilometre rail link between Boten, on the China-Laos border, and Vientiane as the priority project in its infrastructure-development strategy, the Vientiane Times reported.
“Our particular focus is to build a rail link between Boten and Vientiane,” government spokeswoman Boumpheng Mounphosay said.
The announcement was made before Laotian President Choummaly Sayasone’s planned state visit to Beijing from tomorrow to Monday.
Choummaly is expected to push for a Chinese commitment to finance the train link, which would also link Laos to Thailand by rail.
“The Lao government is determined to bring the project to fruition and still hopes to obtain financing from Beijing following [the Laotian] parliament’s approval” of the project, the state-run Vientiane Times reported.
The project was initially set to commence in 2011 as a joint venture between the China Railways Corporation and the Laotian government.
A corruption scandal at China Railways derailed the original scheme, according to Laotian government sources.
Laos thereafter decided to be the sole investor in the project, with finance expected from the Export-Import Bank of China.
The planned railway will have a standard-gauge track, and a maximum speed of 160km/h, less than the 200km/h initially planned.
The line will require 76 tunnels and 154 bridges, including two across the Mekong River, and 31 stations.