March 22, 2017 01:00 By VIENTIANE TIMES ASIA NEWS NETWORK VIENTIANE
THE BORING of tunnels for the Laos-China railway is expected to begin in the next few weeksfollowing a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off construction of the project in December last year.
The tunnel entrances have been earmarked and concreted in |preparation for boring, the |project coordinator for Luang Namtha province, Chanthachone Keolakhone, said on Monday.
“The boring machines are being installed and it's expected that boring will get under way soon,” he told Vientiane Times.
The clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) along the 17km railway route through the province is almost finished and only an area inside a cemetery remains to be examined. Villagers have asked to conduct a ritual ceremony to relocate the cemetery before UXO removal continues, Chanthachone said.
The 417 km railway will run from the Chinese border to Vientiane through four Lao provinces and the capital Vientiane. The provinces are Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
Nine tunnel entrances in Oudomxay province have also been concreted using imported machinery, the project coordinator for the province Phonpadith Phommakit said on Monday.
“It's expected that tunnel boring could begin this month,” he said, adding that UXO has been removed from several places such as labour camps and areas where construction is set to begin.
The director of the Public Works and Transport Department in Luang Prabang province, Fasanan Thammavong, who is also head of the secretariat in charge of the project for the province, said that not much progress has been made. He added that only the relevant facilities such as labour camps and access roads to construction sites have been prepared.
“Tunnel entrances have just been earmarked,” he said, adding that no heavy machinery had been seen.
The US$5.8 billion project will utilise Chinese rail technology, with six Chinese contractors hired to carry out construction.
Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. The single-track railway will involve the building of 167 bridges with a total length of 61.81km, 75 tunnels with a combined length of 197.8km, and 32 stations.
Some 50 metres of land along each side of the railway will be preserved for project development and the owners of the affected property will be compensated for their loss.
The coordinators admitted that compensation has not yet been paid and said the villagers concerned were waiting to be informed about the details of the compensation policy.
The Laos-China Railway Project Management Committee is scheduled to hold talks on Friday in Luang Prabang province to discuss and review all aspects of the work including the compensation to be paid.