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Bridge Border Crossing Set To Speed Up

Officials overseeing the first Laos-Thailand Friendship Bridge border checkpoint have told the Asean Secretariat they will streamline procedures to speed up crossings between Vientiane and Thailand’s Nong Khai province.

Representatives from the Asean Secretariat visited the checkpoint yesterday to track progress made for Asean connectivity ahead of the formation of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.

In 2012 almost 1.9 million people entered Laos at the bridge and more than 2.1 million people left Laos for Thailand the same way. With 36,958 vehicles coming in and 246,468 going out of Laos, the bridge has become noticeably more crowded in recent times.

Ministry of Public Works and Transport Planning Department Director General, Mr Mud Sounmala, told Asean Secretariat representatives the checkpoint became particularly busy during special occasions and festivals in both countries, including Lao and Thai New Year and the That Luang Festival.

Under a newly-drawn plan on how to address the crowding problem presented at yesterday’s visit, the checkpoint will introduce a single-window system and parking spaces and roads will be expanded and improved.

Mr Mud said poor parking was one cause of crowding at the checkpoint.

“At present, people are parking on roadsides,” he said.

Arrival and departure lanes specifically for trucks will be built, while old and unused buildings at the site will be demolished to clear space.

Officials will also improve coordination between immigration and customs units to better harmonise work.

Under the checkpoint’s 2016-20 plan, authorities plan to double the size of the site to 30ha so it connect to Thanaleng Rail Station, the container yard of which is currently being developed nearby.

Asean Secretariat representatives also questioned officials about progress on the planned US$7 billion rail project to link Vientiane to the Chinese border, which would form a regional rail system connecting Singapore to China.

The Lao government resolved in its annual meeting in September to pursue developing the project. Laos and China are in still in negotiations, with Laos seeking finance from Beijing to build the 421km-long high-speed rail project.

The project is part of efforts to turn landlocked Laos into a ‘land-linked’ nation.

In November last year, the Lao government also signed a contract with a Malaysian investor to develop a US$5 billion railway linking Savannakhet province to Laobao on the Vietnam border, at a distance of 220km.

Laos currently has 3.5km of rail linking its capital to Thailand’s Nong Khai province.

Yesterday afternoon the Asean delegation called on Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Alounkeo Kittikhoun, to discuss progress Laos has made toward Asean connectivity.

Souce: vientiane times