Proposed high-speed rail network a high investment for Laos

High-speed railway lines connecting Thailand, Laos and China might soon become a reality after the Thai cabinet met with its Lao counterparts in Chiang Mai earlier this week
china-through-laos-to-Thailand

THAILAND: High-speed railway lines connecting Thailand, Laos and China might soon become a reality after the Thai cabinet met with its Lao counterparts in Chiang Mai earlier this week. The proposal would have a major impact on the region as there is currently only vehicle crossing from ASEAN countries into China.

Both governments are planning to spend billions on countrywide railroad infrastructure.

But in Laos, the plan will be nothing short of radical as the country’s rail networks are practically non-existent.

The proposed massive rail projects will require loans totalling over half of the country’s GDP, which was US$8.3 billion in 2011, according to the World Bank.

Chadchart Sittipunt, Thailand’s transport minister, said: “I think the key message for Laos will be how to create value for this high-speed train for Laos. I think we need to talk because I think there will be a lot of investment for Laos. But how will they create value from this big investment? If they can do it, it will be a good connection between Kunming (China), Laos, and Thailand.”

Rail links are not a surefire benefit to Laos’ economy.

Nevertheless, Vientiane’s ambition to transform the landlocked country into an integrated regional player is gaining support from its neighbours.

Last year the Thai government agreed to finance a US$55 million project to build a short railway line bridging Laos’ capital with Thailand’s Nong Khai province, while it plans its own railway overhaul to be completed in 2020 at a cost of US$69.6 billion.

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