Laos, China, Thailand to hold talks on rail link

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos, China and Thailand are set to hold talks in moves to ensure the rail systems set to traverse the three countries can link smoothly and efficiently.

China will invite Lao authorities to join discussions between Chinese and Thai officials, the Bangkok Post reported citing a source from the Transport Ministry of Thailand.

Chinese and Thai authorities agreed on the need to hold three-party discussions about connecting the high-speed train system from Nong Khai to Vientiane during their talks last week in Beijing when they discussed the development of high-speed rail in Thailand.

The discussion will be aimed at ensuring construction of the two rail systems is coordinated so they can link smoothly.

The discussion will include plans for facilitating immigration and customs procedure for passengers who travel across borders, Bangkok Post reported.

The Lao side has not yet been informed about the talks, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport and Chairman of the Laos-China Railway Construction Project Management Committee, Mr Lattanamany Khounnivong said.

Construction of the 409-km Laos-China railway project linking the Laos-China border to the capital has been 20.3 percent completed as of December 2017.

The US$5.986 billion rail line will form part of the planned regional railway network linking China’s Yunnan province and its capital Kunming to Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

“Since our systems will be connected, such a meeting must be held to discuss relevant procedures,” Mr Lattanamany said.

Lao and Thai technical officials have worked together to identify the location where a new Mekong Bridge will be built to facilitate the linkage between the Lao and Thai systems.

An additional 10 km under the Laos-China Railway project will be developed to link the Laos-China railway train station in Xay village, Xaythany district, Vientiane to the Lao side of the planned cross-Mekong Bridge.

Support for the additional line has been earmarked, but the location of the planned bridge has not yet been approved by the Lao and Thai governments. Once the planned bridge location is approved, the precise length of the additional line can be identified and officials in charge can proceed with further details and steps, Mr Lattanamany said.

Construction of the Laos-China Railway project is scheduled to be completed by December 2, 2021.

Meanwhile, piling work of the first phase of the China-Thai high-speed rail network linking Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima, worth 179 billion baht (more than US$5.6 billion), kicked off on Dec 21 last year.

The initial construction, under the Highways Department, covers 3.5km from Klang Dong-Pang Asok section in Nakhon Ratchasima and is worth 425 million baht (more than US$13.3 million), according to Bangkok Post. It is the first section of the 615-km Thai-Sino rail network linking Bangkok with Nong Khai in the Northeast.

The total investment is valued at 530 billion baht (more than US$16.7 billion).

Chinese and Thai authorities are working together to proceed with the second phase of the project, covering Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai.

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