An initial survey, carried out with the assistance of the Chinese and Vietnamese governments, indicates that Laos will need 1.3 billion dollars to build a cross-country railroad network to link with the other five members of the Greater Mekong Sub-region or GMS, namely Burma, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
The network will consist of nine railways that are considered top priorities, with three vertical lines and six horizontal lines.
The vertical or North-South lines will include tracks from the capital city of Vientiane to Luang Prabang - a distance of 530 kilometers; from Vientiane to Thakek - 330 km; and from Thakek to Savannakhet then Pakse and on to Vangtao on the border with Thailand, a distance of 370 km. Construction of these three lines is expected to cost more than 6,160 million dollars.
The vertical or East-West network, estimated to cost over 6,872 million dollars, will include lines from Thakek to the Vietnamese border in the East at Mou Nha, to run along Route 12 at a distance of 135 kilometers; from Savannakhet eastward to Lao Bao on the Vietnamese border along R. 9 at 215 km; from Luang Prabang to Xiengkhuang to the Vietnamese border at 298 km along R. 4; from Paksane to Xiengkhuang along R. 5 at 123 km; from Boten to Huay Say along R. 3 at 230 km; and another line eastward from Savannakhet to the Vietnamese border at La Lay along R. 15, at 215 km.
The Lao government thinks that by building this railroad network, it will become the center of communication and transportation of the Greater-Mekong Sub-region, and hopes to draw foreign investors' interest in the project and attract foreign assistance, just as in its first railway project which was completed and opened earlier this month.
The 3.5 km railway, running from the Friendship Bridge to Tha Nalaeng on the outskirts of Vientiane, was built with the help of the Thai government at the cost of 197 million bahts, 70% of which is long-tern loans. Thailand is reportedly to assist Laos also with the construction of the second phase of this line, from Tha Nalaeng to the capital city.
Lao officials say this railway is the first step toward building an all-Asia network linking all GMS member nations. and eventually all ASEAN members with Laos at the center.
For further details in Lao, listen to Songrit's report by clicking on the audio files above.