Railway to China expands Laos’ horizons

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Counting the days until the official opening of the China-Laos Railway, Sida Phengphongsawanh, 22, was bursting with enthusiasm as an aspiring train driver and witness to the historic moment.

While the railroad signed by China is due to be declared operational on Friday, millions of Laos await the opportunities created by the rail project connecting the landlocked Asian country with China and the rest of the world.

With the official opening of the railway line, a train departing from the city of Kunming (southern China) in the morning will arrive in the Laotian capital Vientiane on the evening of the same day, according to China State Railway Group Co., Ltd. (China Railway).

Sida, one of some 600 Lao trainees attending a course run by Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd. on the conduct, programming and maintenance of trains, seems determined to realize his dream of “steel locomotive”.

“I heard about the Laos-China Railway for the first time in 2015. In 2016, I went to Kunming to study the knowledge of railways. Upon returning home, I went straight to the Laos-China Railway Company to apply for a position. I hope to be a great driver on the Laos-China railway, ”Sida told Xinhua.

Sida said she first heard of the railroad in 2015 and studied railways in Kunming the following year. Upon her return home, she applied for a position with the Laos-China Railway. “I hope to be a great driver on the Laos-China railway,” Sida told Xinhua.

Born in a hilly town in northern Laos, Sida dreamed of becoming a train driver from his childhood. His hometown is about 100 km from the Laos-China border, where the surrounding mountains block the route to China. Sida, who has spent little time outside her mountain home, has long been curious about the outdoors.

“Due to the mountains of northern Laos, the roads connecting the towns are winding and dangerous. Many old people have never left the mountains where they were born,” Khamsai Phimvongsa, a farmer from Vientiane, told Xinhua.

In 2015, the Chinese and Lao governments signed an intergovernmental railway cooperation agreement, marking the official launch of the China-Laos railway.

The China-Laos Railway is expected to become an important part of the north-south artery of the Indochinese Peninsula, facilitating trade and travel between the two countries and strengthening ties between the two peoples.

The railway, as an important part of the trans-Asian rail network, is of great strategic and practical importance for Laos, according to a signed article titled “Jointly building a community of strategically important destiny between China and Laos” and an article related to the Belt and Road initiative.

The Belt and Road “is an opportunity, through economic infrastructure, trade, investment and people-to-people connectivity, to deepen mutual trust and aid between Laos and China and Belt and Road Initiative country. So we have the landed project, Laos -Chinese Railroad Project, “Laotian Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh told Xinhua in August.

“Personally, the Laos-China railway has given me a stable job, and at the national level, the Laos-China railway can lead the multi-level and all-round development of Laos,” Sida said, noting in particular that his hometown of Muangxay has a long history of importing goods from China.

Khamsai, the 60-year-old farmer, said he hopes to sell local fruits and vegetables to China and help improve rural life in Laos through the railroad.

The approximately 1,000 km China-Laos Railway, with rugged mountains and deep valleys along its two sections, has a high bridge-to-tunnel ratio, including the 1,651-meter Ban Ladhan Mekong Bridge, the Luang Prabang Mekong Bridge of 1,459 meters, 9,384 meters The Ban Sen No. 2 Tunnel and the Ban Nakok Tunnel of 9,296 meters, according to China Railway.

“Chinese engineers are great. Faced with the complex terrain of the mountainous plateaus, they can still use advanced technology to drill each tunnel, ”said Thonglien Outhayod, a Laotian employee working on the railway project.

The heat in Laos added to the difficulties of building the tunnels, with tunnel temperatures much higher than outside, but in the eyes of Laotian workers on the construction site like Sida, Chinese engineers had moved the project forward with perseverance regardless of the heat.

Chinese engineers expect the railroad to have a positive long-term impact on Laos and its relationship with China.

“We are very happy to see that Laotian interns can move on the construction sites of the China-Laos railway, then have their own stable job with full expectation for their future,” said Lei Chao, executive director of the path. of iron.

Hu Bin, a project manager who has worked in Laos for four years, said he was proud of the completion of the railway.

“I am very proud to be able to join the BRI project … and very proud to build a railway with Chinese standards and Chinese technology in a foreign country,” he said.


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