By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
Asia News Network
The 7.5km line will link the track from the outlying Thanalaeng railway station in Hadxaifong district to the inner city, a government official in charge of the project said yesterday.
Deputy director general of the Lao Railway Department, Sonesack N. Nhansana, told the Vientiane Times yesterday that the government had instructed authorities to resume construction of the railway in line with the original plan.
The extension will link Thanalaeng railway station on the outskirts of Hadxaifong district near the Mekong River to Khamsavat village in inner Xaysettha district.
Sonesack said the project had been suspended because Lao authorities wanted to study how the 1-metre standard gauge Laos-Thailand track could be joined to the 1.435-metre gauge track of the planned Laos-China railway.
The authorities have now agreed that one of the stations planned for Vientiane as part of the 427-km Laos-China railway, which will link Vientiane to the Chinese border, will be built in Thanalaeng village so that the two lines are integrated.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith recently visited Thanalaeng railway station where he was briefed on the progress of the Laos-Thailand rail link.
“The Prime Minister suggested we resume construction in 2017. We expect to do so at the earliest date possible,” Sonesack told the Vientiane Times.
He said financing was available for the resumption of the project as Thailand had provided more than 203 billion kip (more than Bt900 million), of which 30 per cent was a grant and 70 per cent was a low-interest loan.
Once construction resumes, it will take about two years to complete the project, Mr Sonesack said.
The deputy head of the Railway Management Division, Khamphet Sisamouth, said the extension would significantly increase passenger numbers and tourist arrivals.
He justified the construction of a station in Khamsavat village by saying it was just 4km from the city centre (That Luang) and was 17km shorter than travelling from That Luang to Thanalaeng railway station using the existing road network.
Thanalaeng railway station, the only station on Laos' railway that runs to Thailand's Nong Khai province, handles 2,500 to 3,000 passengers a month, Khamphet said, adding that more and more people were using the service these days.
Passengers had kept asking why the authorities have not extended the track into the city centre, he said.
The railway serves passengers only now, but freight transport will follow in the near future following completion of a container yard.
Work on the second phase of the railway began a few years ago, including construction of a container yard, dormitories for staff, and a rail operations office, as well as improvements to the signals.
More than 173 billion kip provided by Thailand was spent on this work, of which 30 per cent was given as a standard loan and the remainder a low-interest loan.