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Luang Prabang Awaits Decision on Mekong Railway Bridge

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A Chinese construction company will soon visit Luang Prabang to decide on suitable locations for a railway bridge across the Mekong River and a port that will be used to handle the construction materials needed to build the railway.

The railway bridge is part of the planned 427-km Laos-China railway that will run from the Chinese border to Vientiane.

The construction company and provincial authorities will look at possible sites for the bridge and the port, which will receive construction equipment shipped in by river.

A provincial official, who asked not to be named, told Vientiane Times on Thursday “The railway bridge may be built in the town of Luang Prabang, not far from a new bridge that will be built across the Mekong to link the town to Chomphet district.”

This site is not thought to be within the Luang Prabang World Heritage Site, for which a preservation order exists.

The provincial Public Works and Transport Department and provincial Natural Resources and Environment Department will consider whether the sites proposed by the construction company are suitable.

It is not known when construction of either the bridge or the port would begin as the Chinese company has not yet supplied any details.

Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Souphanh Keomixay addressed the issue at the National Assembly this week, answering questions put by Assembly members concerning the railway, with construction scheduled to begin in December.

The Laos-China Railway Project is estimated to cost about US$6 billion and will run from the border area of Boten in Luang Namtha province to Vientiane. It is scheduled for completion in 2021. The project is 70 percent owned by China and 30 percent by Laos.

Minister of Public Works and Transport Dr Bounchan Sinthavong told the National Assembly that the railway will run from the Chinese border to Vientiane and the next phase will extend the track to Thailand.

A railway will also be built to connect Khammuan province’s Thakhaek district to the Vietnamese border, from where it will run to a coastal port in Vietnam. Another track will be built from Thakhaek to the Cambodian border.

The Laos-China railway will have a 1.435-metre standard-gauge track. There will be 33 stations, 21 of which will be operational initially.

There will be 72 tunnels with a total length of 183.9 km, representing 43 percent of the railway’s total length. The line will also have 170 bridges totalling 69.2 km in length, accounting for 15.8 percent of the total. Passenger trains will travel at 160 km per hour, while the speed of rail freight will be 120 km per hour.

Source: Vientiane Times