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Full steam ahead for start of Laos-China railway

Hundreds of trucks carrying machinery and equipment for construction of the Laos-China railway have entered Laos after being delayed at the border, a senior government official has said.

A special lane has now been allocated at China's Mohan and Laos' Boten border crossing to facilitate the passage of the trucks, the project coordinator in Luang Namtha province, Mr Chanthachone Keolakhone, told Vientiane Times on Friday.

A taskforce team was created last week to man the special truck lane. It will inspect and approve the imported items, which are exempt from tariff payments.

The team comprises officials from the customs, public works and transport sectors as well as representatives of the Laos-China Joint Railway Company and shipping company, Mr Chanthachone said.

Authorities in charge met on March 28 and 29 in Oudomxay and Luang Namtha provinces to discuss ways to accelerate the project. They plan to speed up the import of machinery and equipment and arrange for compensation and resettlement for people who will have to relocate to make way for the railway.

Minister of Public Works and Transport and Chairman of the Laos-China Railway Project Supervisory Committee, Dr Bounchanh Sinthavong, told those attending the meetings to ensure proper implementation of the project, especially by facilitating the import of machinery and equipment.

Preparations are now underway to start the boring of tunnels. The 417-km railway will have 75 tunnels with a combined length of 197.83km and work is expected to begin before the upcoming rainy season, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport and Chairman of the Laos-China Railway Project Management Committee, Mr Lattanamany Khounnivong, told Vientiane Times on Friday.

“Tunnel entrances are being prepared for boring. We expect to begin boring before the rainy season and once the rain comes we can work inside the tunnels,” said Mr Lattanamany, who was in the northern provinces.

Chinese contactors warned that boring should start soon before the start of the rainy season so that workers can carry out construction inside the tunnels during the rain.

If not, construction will likely be delayed until the rainy season ends as starting boring during the rain would increase the risk of a landslide.

The Laos-China Railway Project Supervisory Committee agreed to arrange temporary resettlement for local households who must relocate and will find them permanent homes at a later date, the Socio-economic newspaper reported.

Officials in charge have negotiated with villagers whose land is needed for the railway and have handed over their land to Chinese contractors.

Six Chinese contractors will carry out construction of the US$5.8 million railway, with completion slated for 2021.

Officials said villagers fully supported the construction of the railway, which will link Vientiane to the Chinese border.



By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update April 3, 2017)

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