Laos-Thailand Railway Link Set For Expansion Next Year

Source: Vientiane Times

Phase II of the Laos-Thailand railway, which will see the line extended from the suburbs to central Vientiane, is set to resume after the project was suspended in 2011.

The line will be built over a distance of 7.5km to link the track from the outlying Thanalaeng railway station in Hadxaifong district to the inner city, a senior government official in charge of the project said yesterday.

Deputy Director General of the Lao Railway Department, Mr Sonesack N. Nhansana, told Vientiane Times yesterday that the government has instructed authorities to resume construction of the railway in line with the original plan.

The extension will link Thanalaeng railway station on the outskirts of Hadxaifong district near the Mekong River to Khamsavat village in inner Xaysettha district.

Mr Sonesack said the project was previously suspended because Lao authorities wanted to study in detail how the 1-metre standard gauge Laos-Thailand track could be joined to the 1.435-metre standard-gauge track width of the planned Laos-China railway.

The authorities have now agreed that one of the stations planned for Vientiane as part of the 427-km Laos-China railway, which will link Vientiane to the Chinese border, will be built in Thanalaeng village so that the two lines are integrated.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith recently visited Thanalaeng railway station where he was briefed on the progress of the Laos-Thailand rail link.

The prime minister suggested we resume construction in 2017. We expect to do so at the earliest date possible, Mr Sonesack told Vientiane Times .

He said resumption of the project would be possible and financing was available as Thailand had provided more than 203 billion kip (more than 900 million baht), of which 30 percent was in the form of a grant and 70 percent was a low-interest loan.

Once construction resumes, it will take about two years to complete the project, Mr Sonesack said.

There is optimism that once the extension is operational, it will result in a significant increase in passenger numbers and tourist arrivals, said Deputy Head of the Railway Management Division, Mr Khamphet Sisamouth.

He justified the construction of a station in Khamsavat village by saying it was just 4km from the city centre (That Luang) and was 17km shorter than travelling from That Luang to Thanalaeng railway station using the existing road network.

Thanalaeng railway station  the only station on Laos’ 3.5km railway that runs to Thailand’s Nong Khai province – handles 2,500 to 3,000 passengers a month, Mr Khamphet said, adding that more people were using the service these days.

Passengers keep asking why we don’t extend the track into the city centre, he added.

The railway only transports passengers at present, but freight transport is set to be provided in the near future following completion of a container yard.

Work on Phase II of the railway began a few years ago, including construction of a container yard, dormitories for staff, and a rail operations office, as well as improvements to the signals.

More than 173 billion kip (650 million baht) provided by Thailand was spent on this work, of which 30 percent was given as a loan and the remainder was a low-interest loan.

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