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Laos-China Railway will Start Cross-border Service Before Pi Mai Lao

Source: Vientiane Times

Preparations for the start of cross-border passenger services on the Laos-China Railway are progressing well, with the new service expected to start on April 13, Deputy Prime Minister Saleumxay Kommasith reported.

The DPM, who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs, recently went to Luang Namtha province, which borders China, to monitor the progress of preparations, the Lao News Agency reported.

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The first cross-border passenger train is expected to run on April 13, the day before the annual Lao New Year (Pi Mai Lao) holiday, which falls on April 14-16 every year.

Mr Saleumxay also inspected immigration checkpoints at Boten Station in Luang Namtha, which is the main entry point into Laos.

The 1,035-km railway, which began operation in December 2021 and connects Vientiane to Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province, has so far only offered domestic passenger services, although trains regularly carry freight across the Laos-China border.

DPM Saleumxay instructed authorities in charge to work with the Laos-China Railway Company to ensure the new service operates to plan and runs smoothly.

The government has a deep interest in cross-border passenger travel since China eased its Covid-19 restrictions and opened its borders to allow international travel.

At a recent extraordinary meeting of the cabinet, Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone called for the urgent installation of immigration booths at train stations to facilitate travel by both inbound and outbound passengers.

The planned launch of the cross-border rail passenger service comes just in time for Pi Mai Lao, which coincides with Sankranta, the traditional New Year in the Buddhist calendar, which is also celebrated in Thailand and Cambodia.

Sankranta is also celebrated in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, parts of northeast India, parts of Vietnam, and Xishuangbanna in China. This big annual festival is expected to boost passenger traffic on the railway during the long holiday. Since it came into operation, the Laos-China Railway has seen increasing demand for its services. In January and February, the railway carried 417,400 passengers, an increase of 256.2 percent compared to the same period last year. On the busiest days, the number of passengers exceeded 10,000 on the Lao section of the railway.

The railway also transported 647,700 tons of goods during the first two months of this year, an increase of 320 percent compared to the same period last year.