Rail construction yet to begin
Actual work on the Laos-China railway project has yet to start in Luang Prabang and other provinces following the official construction launch in December last year.
The railway will run from the Chinese border to Vientiane through the provinces of Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, and Vientiane.
Director of Luang Prabang provincial Public Works and Transport Department, Mr Fasanan Thammavong, told Vientiane Times on Monday that the construction has still not begun after its official opening in the province on December 25.
“Chinese railway workers and construction vehicles have still not entered Laos as it's still the time of Chinese New Year. After their New Year celebrations are finished the rail builders will start work,” he said.
Luang Prabang provincial Industry and Commerce Department, who is responsible for catering at workers' camps reported that around 300 Chinese workers were expected in the province.
In Luang Prabang province the railway will pass through the districts of Chomphet, Luang Prabang and Xiengngeun, and includes construction of a railway bridge across the Mekong River.
However, in Luang Namtha province around 250 Chinese workers have arrived at work camps but are unable to begin work on the railway as unexploded ordnance (UXO) has not yet been cleared from the area.
The three villages of Boten, Tinsan and Nateuy in Luang Namtha district are close to the construction site, and people living in Nateuy say they have seen a lot of cluster munitions, known in Laos as bombies, in their neighbourhood but not so many in other locations.
Oudomxay province last month had yet to decide on compensation to be awarded to people who would lose property when the Laos-China railway is built on their land.
Their provincial officials met to discuss the matter but said they needed more time to make a decision. So rail construction has not begun in three districts of Xay, Nga and Namor as well.
In Vientiane province it will pass through the districts of Hinheup, Vangvieng, Kasy and Phonhong, and some Chinese workers' camps for the railway project are being built.
The 417-km Lao section of the railway is estimated to cost US$5.8 billion and will run from the border area of Boten in Luang Namtha province to Vientiane. It is scheduled for completion in 2021 and is 70 percent owned by China and 30 percent by Laos.
Passenger trains will travel at a maximum of 160 km per hour, while the speed of rail freight will reach a top speed of 120 km per hour.
By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
(Latest Update February 14, 2017)