Transportation - Vehicles

Motorway Development Being Considered For Laos

The concept of building a toll motorway in Laos is now possible in order to minimize traffic congestion in Vientiane, according to a senior official from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport, in cooperation with the World Bank, is currently conducting a survey for the development of motorways, with the results of the survey to be finalized early next year.

Office head of the ministry Dr Santisouk Simmalavong told Vientiane Times on Friday that his ministry reported the possibility of motorway development to the government last month despite the incompletion of the survey.

“Road No.13 will be developed into a toll motorway over a total length of 300 km,” he said, saying that the first section will begin from the capital city, through Phonhong district to Vangvieng district in Vientiane province.

The second section will run from Vientiane through Pakngum district to Borikhamxay province. Some sections of the toll motorway will be widened to four lanes to respond to the rising number of vehicles.

Critics commented that they support the construction of a toll motorway to address traffic congestion but the motorway needs to ensure that alternative roads are available for motorists, particularly the poor who are not in a hurry or those who don’t want to pay for motorways.

As the project is still under survey, it was unclear how much the motorway toll will be or whether construction should be entirely funded by private investors or whether the government should contribute funds as well.

Dr Santisouk said a lesson learned from Vietnam is that the country levies tolls every 70km or so.

Once the survey is complete, the ministry will report the results to the government before seeking investors who are interested in the project development.

Motorways are usually built in countries with high purchasing power which experience high traffic volumes, Vietnam for instance – a country of 80 million people and Thailand with more than 60 million people.

Laos is a small market of just six million people. Although Laos is a transit country, it has a small population and low purchasing power. Perhaps the government needs to hold a share in the project to realize the motorway development, according to Dr Santisouk.

Congestion is a growing problem in the capital however. The population of Vientiane has reached almost 800,000 people while the number of vehicles has risen to more than 577,890.

The import of vehicles and spare parts ranked on top of the country’s total imports in the first six months of 2012-13, accounting for 26.4 percent of the total.

Most agree that roads in the capital have become increasingly clogged with vehicles over the past 10 years as many more Lao people can afford to buy new cars and pick-up trucks.

This has resulted in the capital experiencing traffic problems as most offices are located in the town centre. Many roads cannot be expanded as buildings are located close to the edge of the roadsides.

Souce: Vientiane Times