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China-Laos Railway Earns Top Marks

Source: China Daily

A high-speed railway connecting China’s southwest with Laos has been given the thumbs-up-even before services get underway this coming week.

Nearly 200 members of the media enjoyed a trial run on Friday on a section of the track along with people of diverse backgrounds.

Jaruwan Udomsab, a university teacher, said the interior decor of the train is beautiful, with its representations of the folk culture of Yunnan province.

The 1,024-kilometer China-Laos Railway will whisk passengers at speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

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“China’s railway construction is really world-class. It’s great in design and speed,” said Jaruwan, a longtime resident of Kunming.

Services on the line are due to start on Thursday and are expected to advance economic ties between China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. There are plans for the line to ultimately extend into Thailand and farther south.

Li Bei, a train attendant on board for the trial run, said she and her colleagues have received training in diverse skills, including English and Lao for smoother communication with the passengers-as well as dancing.

“The China-Laos Railway is an international one, linking the country to the world, and it will allow me to learn and see more in the months to come,” Li said.

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Jaruwan, for one, is keenly awaiting the start of services. “I have lived in Kunming for more than a decade, and I hope to do some foreign trade or cultural exchanges after the international railway line has opened,” she said.

“I was too excited to sleep last night because I was invited to try the new train.”

Ma Sijie, a civil servant from Ning’er county in the city of Pu’er, Yunnan, said the new railway is good news for her hometown, as it not only links the county to Yunnan’s provincial capital but also to the outside world.

She said she plans to take advantage of the train to go abroad for sightseeing in the coming months.

Economic acceleration

The railway is expected to help Laos accelerate its economic development and improve people’s livelihoods, as well as boost exchanges and cooperation between the Chinese province and ASEAN nations in the coming years, Yunnan authorities have said.

The railway has 11 stations on the Chinese section and 10 on the 409-kilometer Lao section. It is due to become a showpiece of Laos’ participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

It will take just three hours for trains from Kunming to reach the city of Jinghong in Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna prefecture. Passengers will be able to keep on the move and reach Vientiane on the same day.

Another happy traveler on the trial service was Viengxay Phoodthavons, a student from Laos. Viengxay said the train is well designed and comfortable and, importantly, the food on board is delicious.

Construction of the railway has cost 55.68 billion yuan ($8.7 billion). The project includes 93 tunnels with a total length of 398 km, including 15 exceeding 10 km. The longest of them-the Anding tunnel-stretches for 17.5 km. In addition, the line has 136 bridges with a total length of more than 50 km.