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First Lao railway on track for completion, but when will the service start ?
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First Lao railway on track for completion



The first railway in Laos , running from the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge to Thanalaeng train station in Vientiane , will be ready for testing at the end of this month, according to a senior railway official.

“Main construction work on the railway has been completed, with labourers now finalising the work,” Deputy Director General of the Lao Railway Authority Sonesack N. Ngansana told Vientiane Times yesterday.

He confirmed a Thai train would test the 3.5km long railway at the end of this month, and said Lao officials would manage operation of the railway and train station.

“We have 12 officials who have completed training on all facets of operating and managing the railway system,” he said.

Mr Sonesack said he could not yet confirm dates for an official opening ceremony or when the railway would open to the public, as the Lao and Thai governments were still finalising arrangements.

“Perhaps we will be ready to start operations in June, but we're not exactly sure,” he said.

Lao and Thai officials are holding discussions on fees for train services, including passenger ticket prices and freight transport costs.

Mr Sonesack confirmed container charges on the train would be cheaper than the cost of transport by truck. He estimated railway authorities would charge around 4 million kip (15,000 Thai baht) per container, compared to the current cost of about 8 million kip (30,000 Thai baht) for truck transportation.

He said initially the train would only offer a passenger service, as Laos needed to construct facilities enabling freight transportation.

“It will be some years before this railway will be able to link with others to deliver Lao freight to seaports in Thailand ,” he said.

Construction of the railway was funded by the government of Thailand . The project cost around 55 billion kip (197 million Thai baht), 70 percent of which is a loan, and the rest a gift from the Thai government.

A ceremony to mark the start of construction of the railway was held on January 19, 2007, with the contract agreement stating an expected construction period of 18 months.

The Lao government hopes the railway will serve to improve transport services between Laos and other countries in the region, attracting foreign investment and bringing increased employment and income to the country.

The Thai government provided funding for construction of the railway to improve transportation links in the region.

By Vientiane Times



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