Tunnel works underway on Laos-China railway project
Efforts to bore tunnels for the Laos-China railway project have begun, marking a new and intensive stage to construction work underground for the landmark multi-billion dollar project.
As of Tuesday, more than 10 metres had been bored for the Boten Tunnel, one of the three tunnels in northern Luang Namtha province servicing the rail line, the provincial coordinator for the project, Mr Chanthachone Keolakhone said yesterday following a visit to the construction site Tuesday.
“Boring has begun at three points of the tunnel,” Mr Chanthachone told the Vientiane Times .
Chinese contractors commenced boring works on the tunnels on April 8.
He said boring machines are being installed and prepared to commence on the Laos-China Friendship Tunnel which traverses the border underneath Lao and Chinese soil.
“Boring works on the Lao side of the Laos-China Friendship Tunnel should start soon,” Mr Chanthachone said.
He added that preparation is progressing to bore the Natuey Tunnel.
Similarly, boring works of tunnels in northern Luang Prabang province have also started, Director of Public Works and Transport Department for the province Mr Fasanan Thammavong said.
Oudomxay provincial coordinator for the project, Mr Phonpadith Phommakit said tunnel construction works have been progressing and the works will be intensified now that celebrations for Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year) have been completed.
The commencement of boring works comes as the US$5.8 billion project's developers seek to maximise progress before the rainy season starts.
The 417 km railway project will link the Lao capital of Vientiane with Chinese border through four Lao provinces of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay and Luang Namtha.
It composes 75 tunnels with a combined length of 197.83km.
Contractors are speeding up preparation works to begin boring the remaining tunnels in order to ensure the project finishes on time.
Scheduled to completed by 2021, Chinese engineers told the Lao authorities in charge that progress on boring tunnels before the rainy season was critical.
Workers could then continue construction works inside the tunnels during the rainy season.
If not, the rain could delay the construction works.
The railway will form part of the planned regional rail route to link China's Yunnan Province to Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia, adding significant impetus to the Lao government's effort to hasten the transition of the country from landlocked to land-linked.
By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update April 20, 2017)