According to the official Lao press, the construction of the long-anticipated railway to link the Lao capital Vientiane to China will finally proceed in 2013, following a delay of several months and the withdrawal of Beijing from the joint venture.
The “biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Laos”, at an estimated cost of 7 billion US dollars, “is set to kick off next year” with the project scheduled for completion in 2018, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport was quoted in the Vientiane Times.
Although Laos currently only has a short stretch of track near the Thai border, the new railway – which will include 31 stations in total – will be about 420 km long and will connect Vientiane with the Laos-China border in the Luang Namtha province.
In spring 2010, before the project was stalled, French news agency AFP (Agence France-Presse) had noted that preparatory work had begun in the north of the country on the border with China, and that villagers living on the path of the planned high speed line had been told to move.
The initial project planned to construct a high speed line designed for 200 km/h operation. However for “safety reasons” the Lao government has decided that passenger trains will run at a maximum speed of 160 km/h while freight trains will travel at a maximum speed of 120 km/h. Another rail project is planned to link Savannakhet in the south of the country to the Vietnam border.