Rail link to Laos to help boost Chinese economic interest
OUDOMXAI (LAOS) — Like most of his 6.5 million countrymen, Mr Galong Vue has never seen or set foot on a train. However, the 53-year-old farmer knows all about the high-speed railway from China that will run through his village in north-west Laos.
“We first heard the rumour that the railway would come through here in 2010,” he said.
“Then the Chinese came to survey the land last year. They told me the railway will happen for sure and a train station will be built here.”
Some time this year, Mr Vue’s village will be gone, replaced by a state-of-the-art railway station capable of accommodating trains that cruise at 193 kph.
Beijing has long dreamed of a high-speed railway connecting it to South-east Asia, enabling Chinese goods to move south in greater quantities, while the natural resources of its neighbours travel north to China.
Now, the dream is set to become a reality — one that will draw the region even closer into China’s economic embrace.
Last year, the leaders of Laos, a one-party communist state, met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. They described the project as a priority and called for the formal agreement to build the railway to be signed soon.
Starting from Kunming in Yunnan province in south-west China, the railway will travel south through neighbouring Laos and then into Thailand.
Ultimately, it will extend all the way to Singapore, via Malaysia. Other branches of the network will reach into Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Constructing it will be a mammoth engineering task. It will require 154 bridges and 76 tunnels, as well as 31 train stations, just to connect the 418-km line from Boten on the Laos-China border to the Laotian capital, Vientiane.