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200 million litres of fuel to be used in railway construction

Over 200 million litres of fuel is expected to be consumed in the construction of the historic railway linking Vientiane with the Chinese border over the next five years.

The figure was unveiled last week by a senior official from the Lao Petroleum and Gas Association and Deputy Director of the Lao State Fuel Enterprise, Mr Phayboun Phomphaphi.

“An auction is being carried out and hopefully oil supplied by Lao fuel companies will be selected for the almost US$6-billion project – if not, Laos will lose out,” he said.

“My company is submitting letters of auction to the authorities and the selected companies should be announced next month,” he added.

The Lao State Fuel Enterprise is already supplying petrol to the railway project in Vangvieng district, Vientiane province, ahead of the official fuel deal.

Some activities have taken place in Vientiane province that require fuel for construction of the railway.

As Laos holds a 30 percent stake in the 417-km railway, Lao fuel companies hope to supply at least 30 percent of the petrol needed, otherwise a huge amount of money will go to suppliers from other countries.

Economists say it is essential that the project uses materials supplied by Laos and generates job opportunities for Lao people.

The government must ensure that some of the construction work is awarded to Lao companies and that raw materials are supplied by local businesses, including sand, cement and gravel.

The railway will run from the Chinese border to Vientiane through four provinces and the capital Vientiane. The provinces are Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

The boring of tunnels for the railway is expected to begin in the next few weeks while the clearance of unexploded ordnance along a 17km stretch of track is almost finished.

Tunnel entrances have been earmarked and concreted in preparation for boring, the project coordinator for Luang Namtha province, Mr Chanthachone Keolakhone, said recently.

“Boring machines are being installed and it's expected that boring will get under way soon,” he said.

A groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the project took place in December last year and the whole railway is expected to be complete in 2021.

The government says the railway is important for Laos to achieve its ambition to move from being ‘landlocked' to ‘land-linked'. This would result in lower production costs which should enable Lao products to be competitive on the world market.

Officials say the railway will attract more traders, investors and tourists to Laos, which should help to boost economic growth.

The planned single track with a 1.435-metre standard-gauge rail network will have 33 stations, of which 21 will open for use in the initial stage.

There will be 72 tunnels with a total length of 183.9 km, representing 43 percent of the project's total length. The line will also have 170 bridges measuring 69.2 km, accounting for 15.8 percent of the total distance.

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update March 28, 2017)


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