During a two-day visit to Laos by Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 13-14, an agreement was signed by officials from both countries to begin construction on the Vientiane-Vang Vieng expressway, which is slated to begin early next year.
The joint-venture agreement was among 17 cooperation documents signed during the state visit by President Xi Jinping to Laos.
According to an official, China will hold a 95 percent stake while the Lao government will hold the remaining 5 percent under the agreement. Both sides are set to begin negotiations on the concession agreement, which will specify the length of the concession.
The $1.2 billion USD road will link Sikeuth village in Naxaithong district, Vientiane, to a tourist hotspot in Vang Vieng district.
An official, citing the project’s Chinese developer, has stated that once construction on the expressway begins, it will take an estimated three years to complete the 113.5-km road. The new expressway, which will include a 679-metre tunnel at Phoupha Mountain, will be significantly shorter than the 156km route that currently exists using Road No. 13 North.
It was previously reported that the expressway would be developed alongside Road No. 13 North and the Laos-China railway, which is still under-construction.
Speeds on the expressway will be set at 100km per hour on flat terrain from Sikeuth village, Vientiane to Phonhong district, Vientiane province. The mountainous sections between Phonhong and Vang Vieng districts will be set at 80 km per hour. The bypass will save drivers a significant amount of time as they can reach higher speeds as compared to the present route, which is mountainous and winding.
Based on similar charges made by other countries in the region, drivers using the expressway can expect to pay 400-500 kip per kilometre, which will amount to 45,000-56,000 kip between Vientiane and Vang Vieng, according to an official.
The Vientiane-Vang Vieng expressway is the first section of the planned Vientiane-Boten expressway, which the Lao government and the Chinese developer, a state construction enterprise from Yunnan province, plan to jointly build to link Vientiane with the northern province of Luang Namtha, which borders China.
After construction of the Vientiane-Vang Vieng section has begun, authorities will survey the second section between Vangvieng and Luang Prabang province and then the third section linking Luang Prabang and Luang Namtha’s Boten.
The project will be financed and developed in the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model, and the survey of all three sections is expected to reach completion by July, 2018.