The Lao-Thai railway will be able to offer freight services when construction of a container yard and lifting facilities are completed in 2015, according to a senior official with the Lao Railway Authority. The cross-border railway links Vientiane with Nong Khai province in Thailand across the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge. The freight facilities will be built at Thanalaeng station near the bridge in Vientiane.
“Construction of a yard to store containers and lifting facilities will begin at the end of this year,” Mr Bounchanh Xaybounheuang said last week. According to a report from the Lao Railway Authority, the Thai government has approved a grant and loan worth 1.65 billion baht for the Lao government to implement the second phase of the Lao-Thai rail link as part of efforts to enhance transport cooperation between the two nations.
The project to build the container yard and lifting facilities will run from 2013 to 2015. At present, trains cross the Friendship Bridge twice a day but carry only passengers. Mr Bounchanh said the Lao government is now looking for a qualified consulting firm and contractor to carry out the state investment project and hoped thepaperwork would be completed before the end of this year. He said that a number of companies including Kolao, a cement importer and a mining firm had expressed interest in using the rail link to export and import their goods, as this is much cheaper than other forms of transport.
The demand for a freight service between Laos and Thailand has increased rapidly in recent years because of the growing economic cooperation between the two countries, he added. Thailand and Laos plan to double their bilateral trade to US$8 billion (Bt245 billion) by 2015 as the two nations forge closer links with other Asean nations to establish the Asean Economic Community, which will transform the region into a single market and production base. In 2011, two-way trade between Thailand and Laos reached US$3.91 billion, up by 35.8 percent from the previous year. Thai exports were worth US$2.78 billion, while imports were valued at US$1.12 billion. Most of the goods exported from Laos are mining products, agricultural goods, garments and hydropower, while imports largely comprise construction materials, fuel and vehicles. Mr Bounchanh said Laos and Thailand were discussing the possibility of building another rail bridge across the Mekong because the Vientiane-Nong Khai bridge will have to be closed to road traffic when trains are crossing. He also said the Lao government is considering connecting the Lao-Thai railway to the planned Laos- China railway, which will have a station not far from the bridge at the Km 21 point outside the city centre. The government iscurrently seeking funding from China to build the high speed rail link between the Chinese border and Vientiane.
February 04, 2013
Photo: Vientiane Mai