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Plans gather steam for railway linking Vientiane to Vietnamese seaport

Source: Vientiane Times, May 18, 2017

Work is gearing up for the planned building of a railway to connect Vientiane to the Vung Ang seaport in Vietnam after the two countries agreed to move forward with the project.

The two governments last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Vientiane agreeing to work together towards realising the Vientiane-Thakhaek-Muya railway, linking the Lao capital with the Vung Ang seaport in Vietnam’s central Ha Tinh province.
The MoU was signed during an official visit to Laos last month by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
A feasibility study of the project is expected to be complete by the end of this year, Deputy Director General of the Railway Department under the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Mr Sonesack N. Nhansana, told Vientiane Times yesterday.
The government of the Republic of Korea has provided a grant amounting to US$3 million to finance the feasibility study.
When the study is complete, both sides are expected to seek investment to realise the project.
A department official involved in the project said the railway would be about 550 km long.
The estimated cost of the project would be revealed after the feasibility study was finished, the official said.
The railway would connect to the planned regional rail line that will link China’s Kunming to Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. The Laos-China railway, the Lao section of the regional rail line, is already under construction.
The Vientiane-Thakhek-Muya railway and the planned development of the Vung Ang seaport will boost trade and investment in Laos.
The official explained that these two projects will better facilitate goods transport at a cheaper cost and enable landlocked Laos to access sea trade routes.
During the recent visit by the Vietnamese Prime Minister, the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Vietnamese Ministry of Communication and Transport signed an agreement on the joint venture to develop the Vung Ang seaport.
Laos is working to develop its infrastructure, including railways, to enhance connectivity and transform the country from being landlocked into a land link, so as to boost trade and investment.
The US$5.8 billion Laos-China railway to connect Vientiane to the Chinese border over a distance of 417km is under construction with completion slated for 2021.
In addition, the Lao government signed an agreement with Malaysia’s Giant Consolidated Limited in 2012 giving the green light to the company to build a railway linking Savannakhet province to the Vietnamese border at Lao Bao. Preparations are in progress for the start of construction.
Several additional railway projects are also in the pipeline after the government announced its intention to pursue these developments.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update May 18, 2017)

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