Laos and China on Tuesday signed an agreement for a feasibility study on the establishment of a college that would train personnel to work as ticket sellers, station operators and provide various passenger services.
Graduates of the college would have the opportunity to work on the Laos-China railway, which is currently under construction and set for completion in 2021.
The agreement was signed by Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, Associate Professor Dr Kongsy Sengmany, and the Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy to Laos, Mr Wang Qihui.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Assoc. Prof. Dr Kongsy said the railway would be a new experience for Laos, adding "Staff from the ministry's
Vocational and Technical Education Department went to China for a study tour to learn about railway operations."
In anticipation of the railway's opening, Assoc. Prof. Dr Kongsy stressed that the Lao side wanted China to help train personnel to staff the railway.
It is expected that the college will be built near the National Sports Complex in Xaythany district. Work on the feasibility study began recently. The timeframe for its completion, possible start of construction, the budget to be provided and other details are still awaiting confirmation, the ministry's committee in charge said.
If it is approved, the site of the college would be 16 kilometres from the city centre and will cover 14.5 hectares, according to the ministry.
Mr Wang Qihui said the Chinese government had prioritised the Laos-China railway, adding "China is ready to help Laos to train staff to provide passenger services."
He said there would be bilateral and multilateral training prior to 2021 and that China would appoint officials to the Chinese Railway Technology Committee who would be responsible for the training.
The Laos-China railway, which will run over a distance of 417km, will feature a single 1.435-metre standard-gauge track and an electrified mixed-traffic line which is to be built to China's GB Grade 1 standards, suitable for 160km/h passenger and 120km/h freight trains.
The combined investment in the railway is US$5.8 billion, which makes it China's largest investment in Laos. The railway will run from the Chinese border to Vientiane and will link Laos to China's network. Currently, the only railroad in Laos is a 3.5km extension of Thailand's state railway network.
The Boten-Mohan border (between Laos and China) is the starting point of the Lao section of the Chinese railway network.
When the railway is operational, the journey from Boten in Luang Namtha province to Vientiane will be reduced from about three days by road to less than three hours by train.