Vientiane - Construction on a 7-billion-dollar railway linking Vientiane to the Laos-China border will start next year and be completed by 2018, state media reported on Friday.
Public Works and Transport Ministry deputy minister Lattanamany Khounnyvong said Laos and China were "ironing out the details of the loan agreement with EXIM Bank of China, to cover the cost ofconstruction," said the Vientiane Times.
Laos will soon choose a Chinese contractor to build the rail link.
The 420-kilometre railway project was initially to be done as a joint venture between China and Laos, but will now be 100-per-centowned by the Lao government. The project got the go-ahead from the National Assembly last month.
On November 5, the Lao government also signed a 30-year concession with Malaysia's Giant Consolidated Limited to build a 220-kilometre-long train track linking south-eastern Laos to Vietnam and Thailand, via Savannakhet province.
Construction of that railway line is scheduled to begin in January, to be completed within four years. The project will cost an estimated 5 billion dollars.
The China-Vientiane railway project will use a standard-gauge track of 1.435 metres and require the construction of 76 tunnels and 154 bridges.
Lattanamany said a project feasibility study of the proposed route had already been completed.
Plans to build the railway as a China-Laos joint venture ran into opposition as the agreement required handing over vast tracts of land to the Chinese contractor as part of the deal.
The government of Laos, an impoverished landlocked country, has set the goal of turning itself into a "land-linked" country with itsneighbours with railways.//DPA