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Containers are lifted onto trains at Vientiane South Station.

Benefits of Laos-China Railway surpassing targets, operator says

The volume of passenger and freight traffic on the Laos-China Railway has exceeded targets, indicating the greater-than-expected benefits delivered by the railway, the developer and operator of the mega project has said.
Having been in operation for just two and a half years since December 3, 2021, the annual volume of passenger and freight traffic is already approaching the annual target set for after the first 10 years following the inauguration of the railway. These figures have been set at 3.6 million passengers and 5,000,050 tonnes of freight.
In 2023, Laos’ section of the railway alone carried as many as 2.594 million passengers, a year-on-year increase of 85.8 percent, the General Manager of the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd., Liu Hong, told ASEAN and Chinese media personnel recently.
In addition, Laos-China cross-border trains carried 111,000 passengers last year.
This year, as of June 19, trains had transported 1.69 million passengers, a year-on-year increase of 41.3 percent, while cross-border trains carried 56,000 passengers.
Freight transport has also increased significantly. In 2023, the Lao section of the railway transported 4.089 million tonnes of freight, a year-on-year increase of 83.1 percent.
“It is just at the early stage [of operation], but it can be said that we have almost reached the [annual] target set for after the first 10 years of operation,” Mr Liu Hong said through an interpreter.
With such strong figures, “We, as the company, are able to repay debts,” said the Deputy General Manager of Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd., Anongdeth Phetkaysone.
He added that these benefits exclude indirect gains enjoyed by the hospitality, service, trade and investment sectors with trains bringing in more tourists and cutting transport costs, thus boosting trade and investment and creating jobs.
The US$5.9 billion railway is managed by Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd., a joint venture based in Vientiane. Laos holds a 30 percent stake through the Lao National Railway State Enterprise with three Chinese state-owned enterprises holding the remaining 70 percent. Investment comes from two sources, namely a loan for 60 percent of the cost from the Eximbank of China and the remaining 40 percent as equity, for which the four shareholders are responsible.  
Head of Office at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Saleumsak Sayamoungkhoun, told media personnel that the railway, part of the Belt and Road Initiative, supports the government’s strategy to transform landlocked Laos into a land-link country, saying the railway has become a gateway between China and ASEAN.
The 422.4-kilometre standard-gauge railway converges with the one metre-gauge Laos-Thailand railway at the Thanaleng Dry Port’s container yard in Vientiane, from where it links to Thailand and other ASEAN countries.
On Friday, the Thanaleng Dry Port welcomed the first Malaysian-made leased freight train launched as part of the ASEAN Express, an international rail freight system connecting Malaysia to Thailand, Laos and China.
Through the China-Europe rail network, the route links Southeast Asian countries to Europe, Mr Liu Hong told reporters, adding that it takes just 21 days to ship freight from Thailand to Hungary. This compares favourably to reports indicating that it takes up to 45 days to ship cargo from Southeast Asia to Europe by sea.
Media personnel were given an in-depth insight into the operation of the Laos-China Railway during the week-long ASEAN Media Tour 2024, which took them from Vientiane to Yunnan province in China. The trip was organised by China’s Mission to ASEAN in collaboration with the China Daily, finishing up in Yunnan province on June 30.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
 (Latest Update July 10, 2024)

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