Laos, Thailand Meet to Discuss Railway Project Connecting Vientiane and Nong Khai

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Officials from Laos and Thailand met last week in Vientiane Capital to discuss the Laos-Thailand railway project, which is expected to commence operation in mid-2023.

The Minister of Public Works and Transport of Laos, Mr. Viengsavath Siphandone, met with Thailand’s Minister of Transport, Mr. Saksayam Chidchob, and his team last week to discuss the project’s development. This was after Thailand’s Department of Rail Transport provided an update on the progress of the railway that will link Vientiane and Thailand’s Nong Khai province and also connect to the Laos-China Railway.

The discussion covered several primary topics, such as passenger and freight connectivity, the possibility of utilizing the old bridge, the construction of a new bridge across the Mekong river, and the scope of the project.

The meeting also discussed the construction of a shared control room at Thanaleng in Vientiane as well as at the Thai stations of Nong Khai and Na Tha, alongside cooperation for human resource development.

Mr. Viengsavath suggested that the meeting minutes be used as the foundation for drafting a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize the outcome of the meeting.

According to the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), both nations agreed to send the train operators, maintenance staff, and related officials for training in Thailand until December after which the neighboring countries will talk through train operations, fees, and other related matters. The discussions are expected to conclude before the mid-2023 opening date.

The first phase of the Laos-Thailand Railway will see connections between the four stations of Natha and Nong Khai in Thailand along with Thanaleng and Vientiane Capital in Laos.

Starting mid-2023, four daily return trips will commence service, and the route will also run past the container yard and the Thanaleng Dry Port.

In the second phase starting in 2024, the SRT will extend the track to Udon Thani, and Nakhon Ratchasima stations, operating two trains running daily from Nakhon Ratchasima to Khamsavath station in Vientiane and back.

The last phase by 2025 will see the route further extended to Bang Sue grand station in Bangkok, with two roundtrips per day between Khamsavath and Bangkok.

The Laos-Thai-China railway is anticipated to be a boon for tourism and cross-border trade between the three nations.