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Laos pursues rail link with China
Publication Date : 24-09-2013
The government will turn its attention to building the US$7 billion Boten-Vientiane railway, to link the Lao capital with the Chinese border, according to the government spokesperson.
Speaking at a media conference following the government's open meeting that ended on Friday, Ms Bounpheng Mounphosay said the five-day meeting had adopted an infrastructure development strategy on land, air and water transportation.
Regarding rail development, the strategy prioritises the development of a rail network to connect with others in the region and sub-region.
“Our particular focus is to build a rail link between Boten and Vientiane,” Ms Bounpheng told the conference.Ms Bounpheng's announcement comes shortly before the planned visit to China by President Choummaly Sayasone.
Choummaly, who is also Secretary General of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, will pay an official visit to China from September 26 to 30 in response to an invitation from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
The topics slated for discussed by the two presidents have not been identified, although Vientiane is reportedly seeking financing from Beijing to build the 421 km high-speed railway.
Chinese ambassador to Laos Guan Huabing said last week his government attaches great importance to working with Laos to develop the railway.
The ambassador made the comment during an interview with Chinese and Lao media at the embassy in Vientiane ahead of China's National Day on October 1 and President Choummaly's visit to China.
Guan said “The determination of the Chinese government to push for the construction of the railway remains unchanged.”
He said both sides were looking at the details as they explore a win-win form of cooperation. Construction of the Boten-Vientiane railway was delayed following changes to the initial joint-venture plan between Vientiane and Beijing.
Laos and China planned to jointly undertake the project, with China to put up 70 percent of the investment cost. A groundbreaking ceremony was planned for 2011 with a completion date in 2015, but the ceremony did not take place.
The project was delayed after the Chinese construction company reportedly pulled out. However, the Lao government is determined to bring the project to fruition and still hopes to obtain financing from Beijing following parliament's approval.
The planned railway would form part of the Asean-China rail link, which begins in Yunnan province, China, and runs southwards to Singapore through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. The Lao government wants to build the railway as part of efforts to turn the landlocked country into a land link within the region.
In November last year, the government signed a contract with a Malaysian investor to build a US$5 billion railway linking Savannakhet province to Laobao on the Vietnamese border over a distance of 220km.
Laos' only existing rail link consists of a 3.5 km track linking Vientiane to Nong Khai province in Thailand.