SUNDAY, April 14, 2024
nationthailand

Thai Northeast braces for boom as China-Laos passenger railway opens

Thai Northeast braces for boom as China-Laos passenger railway opens

Passengers boarded the first train from China’s Kunming in Yunnan province to the Lao capital of Vientiane, just over the border from Nong Khai, on April 13 – the first day of Songkran.

Nong Khai and neighbouring northeastern provinces are set to benefit after the Laos-China high-speed railway launched cross-border passenger services just in time for Songkran.

Passengers boarded the first train from China’s Kunming in Yunnan province to the Lao capital of Vientiane, just over the border from Nong Khai, on April 13 – the first day of Songkran.

The new gateway between China and Thailand is expected to bring an influx of tourists and investment to Nong Khai and surrounding provinces.

Jiranan Sakuntangkoon, a Nong Khai Tourism Association consultant, explained that many tourists prefer to stay overnight in Nong Khai before resuming their trip to Vientiane, located 20 kilometres away.

Monnipa Kowitthasiri-kul, president of the Nong Khai Chamber of Commerce, hopes that Chinese tourists who travel to Laos will also continue their trip to Nong Khai and other provinces in northeastern Thailand.

The private sector in Nong Khai has already benefited from the Laos-China railway freight services, which have helped boost employment and new business opportunities in the area.

The addition of passengers is expected to attract even more investment to Nong Khai and entice the Thai government to upgrade infrastructure there to support the economic upturn.

The 1,000-kilometre rail line was completed in December 2021, but China’s strict zero-Covid measures meant services were limited to freight transport until this month.
 

The high-speed line has opened up a new transport route from Thailand to the vast market of mainland Chinese. In the past, transportation of goods between China, Laos, and Thailand was time-consuming due to poor road conditions. However, the Laos-China railway has cut travel time to 10 hours, benefiting the transportation of perishable goods such as fruit and other foods.

The Nong Khai tourism consultant said the railway serves as a bridge boosting relations and cooperation between Thailand, Laos, and China. One Kunming-Vientiane and one Vientiane-Kunming service will run each day on the new line. First-class tickets for the full 10-and-a-half-hour trip cost 760 yuan ($110 or 3,780 baht) while second-class tickets are priced at 470 yuan ($68).

The Laos-China high-speed railway will eventually extend through Thailand to Singapore as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road project to link China with the rest of Southeast Asia.

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