Source: Vientiane Times
Motorists will now have the convenience of travelling from Vientiane to Vangvieng in an hour following the opening of a new expressway linking the capital to the popular tourist destination on Sunday.
The opening ceremony for the expressway, held at the entry gate in Naxaithong district of Vientiane, was attended by President Bounnhang Vorachit, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Sonexay Siphandone, the Chinese Ambassador to Laos, Mr Jiang Zaidong, ministers, officials and guests.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Dr Bounchanh Sinthavong, said the Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway is a historic project for the development of transport infrastructure in Laos.
“It’s a symbolic project for cooperation in line with the One Belt, One Road Initiative and the friendship between Laos and China,” he said.
The government is working to make the movement of goods and people convenient, promoting the production of goods, and taking steps to boost commerce, investment, tourism and services, he said. The government’s policies will also help eradicate poverty among people living along the roads, he added.
Dr Bounchanh said the 109.11-km Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway runs from Sikeuth junction in Naxaithong, Vientiane, to Phonhong, Hinheup and Vangvieng districts of Vientiane province.
The 23-metre wide road has four lanes and there are 45 bridges and a tunnel on the route. The expressway has eight payment gates in Vientiane, Naxone, Banbua, Sakar,Phonhong, Hinheup, Ang Namngum and Vangvieng.
The expressway also has three service points at Vientiane, Phonhong and Vangvieng, two break points where people can stop for a break, two control points for the road and tunnel, and emergency repair points at Vientiane and Vangvieng.
The Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway is the first section of a longer project, and the investment company from Yunnan province will build three more section linking Vientiane to Boten on the Laos-China border, he said.
The speed limit for the expressway is 100km an hour in the flat terrain between Sikeuth village and Phonhong district in Vientiane province, and 80 km an hour in the mountainous section between Phonhong and Vangvieng districts.
Posts on social media have expressed concern about the toll for using the expressway. The toll for using the expressway is currently unclear, a staffer for the expressway told media.
Motorists can use the expressway for free for three days in line with the observance of the 45th National Day, according to a notification from the Prime Minister Office. After this period, motorists will have to pay to use the expressway, which shortens the distance between Vientiane and Vangvieng by 43 km, when compared to travelling on the Road No 13 North.
Construction of the expressway began at the end of 2018 and it was initially scheduled to be completed in 2021, but the project was finished this year.
The Chinese investors will operate the expressway under a 50-year concession agreement, with the total cost expected to be US$1.2 billion. The Lao government has a 5 percent stake in the project.
With motorists able to travel at higher speeds, officials say the journey between Vientiane and Vangvieng will be much quicker than at present.
The project development agreement for the expressway was signed in 2017 during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Laos.
The government recently approved the construction of the second section between Vangvieng and Luang Prabang.