The 6 US Billion Laos-China railway which was started in December 2016 is a year early and set up open on Lao National day this year, 2 December.
The railway runs from the town of Boten on Laos’s border with China to the capital Vientiane and is now 93.82% complete according to the Miniter of Planning and Investment. That seems a very specific figure.
Chinese operators are bringing in locomotives, electric multiple unit trains, and other equipment to conduct the first trial run of the railway in October. It is an effective extension of China’s high-speed rail system into Laos, another headline project of Xi Jinping’s world-spanning Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The completion of the railway will deepen China’s influence over the landlocked nation of seven million Lao.
Despite COVID19 and over a hundred Lao workers have gone without pay for almost two months the railway is ahead of schedule. As at 23 September, laborers, who work in two villages in the capital Vientiane for several Chinese subcontractors, had been told they would be paid for their work at the end of each month, but one worker said their pay had been held back.
The project is expected to lower the cost of exports and consumer goods in Laos and boost socio-economic development which is good news if this eventuates as since COVID the cost of staple food has risen dramatically.
The standard gauge single-track line cuts through 417 kilometers of rugged mountainous terrain from Boten to Vientiane, including 61 kilometers of bridges and 75 tunnels with a total length of 198 or 260 kilometers (reports vary).
The Laos-China railway is likely to increase the number of Chinese nationals traveling to Vientiane, which already boasts a large resident Chinese population while boosting Chinese tourism to the former royal capital of Luang Prabang