China’s rail network opens up transport links in Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The under construction Laos-China railway is the biggest development project taking place in Laos and is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The main benefit for Laos is that it will spur the country’s transformation from being landlocked to a land-link country.

The railway will form part of the planned regional rail route linking China’s Yunnan province to Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

Lao and Chinese authorities aim to complete construction of the 414-km railway linking Vientiane to the Chinese border by December 2021, to mark the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on December 2.

About 95 percent of the total land required for the railway has been handed over to Chinese contractors.

The railway slices through the provinces of Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Vientiane as well as the capital and has 75 tunnels with a combined length of 197.83km.

As of this month, 83 percent of the structural engineering work is complete, according to project officials.

Last month, Vientiane Times personnel and staff from other media outlets in Asia, Asean and the Asean plus Three countries China, Japan and the Republic of Korea visited the Chengdu International Railway Port in China to study operations there.

The Chengdu International Railway Port covers an area of 33.6 square kilometres. It is located in the northeast of Chengdu, in Qingbaijiang district.

It is located at a strategic point on the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Yangtze River Economic Belt. It is an important platform for the rollout of the Belt and Road Initiative and construction of the corridor of International Land-Sea Intermodal Transport in Chengdu.

In line with the instructions issued by General Secretary Xi Jinping during his visit to Sichuan in February 2018, Chengdu needs to strengthen and expand the network, taking advantage of the Chengdu-Europe Railway Express to build a Chengdu-Europe Hub.

The Chengdu International Railway Port is building a world level international railway port based in inland China that serves the whole country and connects to the rest of the world.

Project staff told the visiting media personnel that railway transport was the most convenient mode of travel and saved a vast amount of time. The transport of freight to Europe by boat took 45 days, but took only 15 days by train. 

In April 2013, the first China Railway Express (Chengdu) freight train departed Chengdu International Railway Port. Its transit time was one-third that of sea transport and the transport cost was just one eighth of air transport.

After six years of development, the number of freight trains using the China Railway Express (Chengdu) has ranked the highest in China for three consecutive years since 2016.

In line with the development strategy “all round opening up” put forward by the CPC provincial and municipal committees, the China Railway Express (Chengdu) has linked about 30 foreign cities, including Lodz in Poland, Nuremberg in Germany, Tilburg in the Netherlands, and Hanoi in Vietnam, and about 20 domestic cities including Qinzhou and Shanghai.

This has created a network of seven international railway routes and five international rail-sea transit routes.

It has two container terminals: the Chengdu Railway Container Terminal and Dawan Freight Terminal. As the largest inland railway port in Asia, throughput has ranked first in China for many years.

The Chengdu Railway Port is a national open port, formally operating meat port, whole vehicle port, grain port, and authorised as a national customs supervision centre for intermodal transport.

Import and export trade at the bonded logistics centre ranks fourth nationwide. At present, the Chengdu International Railway Port is accelerating construction of the first smart unmanned port in inland China and the Comprehensive Bonded Zone.

Chengdu International Railway Port is also the core area of the “Jintang-Qingbaijiang-Xindu” Belt and Road Great Area and “the Belt and Road Industrial Park”, focusing on developing the three pillar industries of modern logistics, international trade, and bonded processing.

At present, about 120 major logistics businesses have gathered in the port, including the China Merchants Group, China COSCO Shipping, Fresh Hema, Cainiao, and the Xinhua Group with a total investment of nearly 70 billion yuan.

In April 2017, the Qingbaijiang Railway Port Area of the Sichuan Pilot Free Trade Zone was officially established. It is located at the Chengdu International Railway Port and covers 9.68 square kilometres.

As the only free trade zone built on a railway hub, many reform measures have taken the lead in China, among which “one bill coverage system” for intermodal transport “co-sharing block train and co-transportation” are listed in the national top 10 reform cases and innovation achievements.

The Laos-China railway is very important for economic cooperation and transportation, both domestic and international, as it will mean Laos can no longer be considered landlocked.

For a long time Laos has attempted to forge closer links to countries that border the sea as the use of seaports is a huge boon for transport. Railways provide an easy link to other countries.

Very soon some 600 people will be selected to undergo training in China in preparation for operation of the Laos-China railway, which is scheduled to commence service in December 2021.

Personnel selection and training will be carried out in three sessions, with the first job vacancies expected to be announced this month, said a senior official with the Laos-China Railway Company (LCRC), which was established by the Lao and Chinese governments to operate the railway.

The first group of trainees is expected to go to Kunming in March or April, where they will attend courses lasting 15 to 18 months, training as mechanics and train drivers and for other jobs, as well as learn to supervise rail system maintenance.

The training aims to “prepare for the railway operation in December 2021”, LCRC General Manager Li Bing Xuang said.

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