Laos pushing rail link development for regional connectivity

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos is working to promote rail link development to maximise the economic benefits of multiple transport corridors that connect with the region.

A senior public works and transport official highlighted the government efforts in his address at a meeting of the Sub-working Group on the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link (SWG-SKRL) in Vientiane on Thursday.

The SWG met for its 21st meeting co-hosted by the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Malaysian Ministry of Transport, to update the progress of the SKRL in each member state and discuss other related projects and future work. 

The SKRL railway has around 7,000 km of track, with the eastern line passing though Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, the western line passing through Myanmar and Thailand, the central line passing through Laos and Thailand, and the southern line linking to Singapore and Malaysia through Thailand.

Member states must complete construction of 1,287 km in missing rail links in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, and rehabilitate 1,250 km of existing track in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

For Laos’ part, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr Viengsavath Siphandone, described the government’s efforts over the past 10 years, which involved carrying out key investment and studies on the Laos-China railway, Vientiane-Thakhaek-Mu Gia, and Phase 2 of the Lao-Thai railway.

According to the deputy minister, the Laos-China railway, which is part of the Belt and Road Initiative and an integral part of the SKRL central route, as of July, was 75 percent complete and scheduled for completion by the end of 2021.

Mr Viengsavath also noted the National Logistics Strategy which was adopted last year. He said it clearly set a policy framework in line with the country’s aim of not merely becoming a land bridge, but also developing international multi-modal transport corridors to make the most of the potential benefits.

Also speaking at the meeting, Secretary General of the Malaysian Ministry of Transport, Datuk Mohd Khairul Adib bin Abd Rahman, stressed the importance of the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link.

By linking Asean capitals, the railway would be an uninterrupted network with member states standing to gain enormous economic and social benefits and enhancing people-to-people cooperation across the region.

Financial constraints and the political climate were also tabled for discussion at the meeting by the Malaysian official, who provided recommendations.

“To move forward effectively, we must be able to work together with all drivers of the SKRL project, namely the government, regulators, investors, corporations, and others that share an interest in building a rail link from Singapore to China,” he said.

“The role of local governments in overseeing the programme of investment in the railway is also crucial so that it fulfils the value of the investment that reaches into every region and community,” he added.

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