Feature: Laos-China railway brings changes to Laos

2017-08-07 06:30:31 GMT2017-08-07 14:30:31(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Zhang Jianhua

VIENTIANE, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- In northern and central Laos,mountains seem to reign the area where population is scarce. Therewas almost nothing but primeval forests and traces ofslash-and-burn cultivation left by mountainous residents.

However, since December 2016, within half a year since thebeginning of construction of China-Laos railway, the area has beenwitnessing massive changes.

China-Laos railway starts from the Mohan-Moten border areabetween the two countries, running over 400 km to Lao capitalVientiane with designed operating speed of 160 km per hour. Over 60percent of the route are bridges and tunnels.

Construction of the railway is scheduled to be completed in fiveyears with investment of some 37.4 billion Chinese yuan (5.56billion U.S. dollars). This is the biggest investment project ofChina in Laos so far.

Being the first overseas route connecting with the railwaysystem in China using Chinese technology and equipment, China-Laosrailway is a major strategic project which was reached and promotedby top leaders of the two countries, a major project ininfrastructure interconnectivity between China and neighboringcountries, and a major project in implementing the Belt and RoadInitiative.

Ground-breaking ceremony of the railway was held in December2015, and the construction of the whole route officially started ayear later.

GREAT CHANGES

Within the first six months of construction, Chinese companieshave built roads running through forests and drill tunnels halfwayup the mountains.

The construction section of China Railway No.8 Engineering GroupCo., Ltd. (CREC8) is located on Laos' northern Luang Prabang areaalong the Mekong river, some 220 km north of capital Vientiane.

The Mekong River runs around the area, creating a peninsulasurrounded by water and mountain. There had been no power supply inthe area, thus living and production conditions were quitehard.

Thanks to the Chinese construction team, the area was officiallyconnected to electricity grid in July. The "No Man's Land" has nowentered into the "power era".

The most obvious change brought about by the construction of theChina-Laos railway is the new roads running through wild forests innorthern Laos.

In Muangxay-Luang Prabang area in northern Laos, the 1801provincial road used to be a narrow, steep and bumpy dirt roadcurving around slopes. After being included in the construction ofChina-Laos railway, the China Railway International Group set up aspecial maintenance team to widen the road and decrease slopes. Nowthe road is either covered with sand stone, or blacktopped.

According to Bai Qiang, Chinese Communist Party secretary of therailway section's working committee, "local villagers said thatthanks to the new road, local girls don't have to worry aboutmarrying afar, as the road is now so smooth and easy to get homeafter marriage."

HIGH HOPES

China-Laos railway is a big project under the Belt and RoadInitiative. The railway runs through Lao mountainous area with manytunnels needed to be built, and now, along the route, it is easy tofind advanced machinery and equipment in full operation alongsidethe thatched huts of local residents.

The Lao government hopes that the completion of China-Laosrailway will bring powerful momentum to social and economicdevelopment, while the construction of the railway has alreadybrought great changes in many areas along the route.

At Sinohydro Bureau 3 Co., Ltd's railway construction sitebetween towns of Luang Prabang and Vangvieng, local staffsoutnumber Chinese workers. Nearby hilly villages have over 300people while some 20 of them have been employed to work forSinohydro 3. Lao staffs are learning the advanced technology andmanagement from their Chinese colleagues.

Chinese construction companies also donated money to localvillages for building bridges and roads.

Nuanchanh, deputy chief of Phengsong village where the railwayruns through in Vientiane province, some 70 km north of capitalVientiane, told Xinhua:" Local villagers are very excited afterChinese companies come to build China-Laos railway, and we welcomethem here because this railway can bring a new look to ourvillage."

Nuanchanh said Lao villagers and departments at all levels willwork closely with Chinese companies in construction of the railway."We are looking forward to the completion of the railway which willimprove Laos' transport infrastructure, facilitate exchangesbetween peoples of the two countries, thus promoting tourismindustry."

OFFICIALS' RECOGNITION

Lattanamany Khounnyvong, Lao Vice Minister of Public Works andTransport told Xinhua that China-Laos railway is the top project inthe eighth five-year plan of Laos, and is of great significance forLaos.

"We are now working to assist Chinese contractors in theconstruction of infrastructure such as roads, education andhealthcare facilities in villages along the railway. This is ofgreat significance to the implementation of the eighth five-yearnational plan of Laos", he said.

Lao President of National Assembly Pany Yathoutou inspected theconstruction site of the railway in July.

"Laos-China railway is the project that has been promoted byleaders of the two countries. Management units and constructionunits must work closely together," she said.

She believed that the Chinese railway construction companieswere more than capable of completing the railway construction, shesaid.

While meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijingduring the Belt and Road Forum, Lao President Bounnhang Vorachitspoke highly of the achievement in bilateral cooperation,expressing his satisfaction over the progress of bilateral projectsunder the Belt and Road Initiative. Enditem

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