VIENTIANE, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- The China-Laos Railway, a flagship project within the framework of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was put into operation on Friday.
The cross-border railway will be a game-changer for the development of Laos.
Following are the basic facts about the railway:
LENGTH OF THE RAILWAY
Stretching from Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, to the Lao capital Vientiane, the railway has a total length of 1,035 km, consisting of the Chinese and Lao sections. The Lao section has a length of 422 km.
DIFFICULTIES IN CONSTRUCTION
Along the railway, there are mountains and deep valleys with complex geological conditions.
There are 167 tunnels and 301 bridges along the railway. The total length of the tunnels adds up to over 590 km, accounting for 63 percent of the railway's total.
The bridge and tunnel ratio is also quite high with that in the Chinese section up to 87 percent and the Lao section up to 63 percent, including the 1,651-meter Ban Ladhan Mekong Bridge, 1,459-meter Luang Prabang Mekong Bridge, 9,384-meter Ban Sen No. 2 Tunnel, and 9,296-meter Ban Nakok Tunnel.
2015: The Chinese and the Lao governments signed an intergovernmental railway cooperation agreement, marking the official entry of the railway into the implementation phase;
2016: Construction started in the northern Lao city of Luang Prabang for the Lao section;
2017: First tunnel along the railway was bored through in Vientiane Province with a length of 301 meters;
2018: First T-shaped concrete beam of the railway was erected in Vientiane, marking a key milestone as the construction was transferred from substructure to superstructure;
2019: Power supply project for the railway started in Vientiane;
2020: Construction made steady headway despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with tracks extended from Vientiane to northern Laos' transport hub Luang Prabang and yearly construction targets accomplished;
2021: Construction of the railway was completed as scheduled and the railway was put into operation on Dec. 3.
CONSTRUCTION, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION GO HAND IN HAND
The electrified passenger and cargo railway was built with the full application of Chinese management, technical standards, and more importantly, ecological standards.
In Yunnan Province, two tunnels were drilled for elephants' passage, linking one of the scheduled train stations along the railway -- the Wild Asian Elephant Valley Station which is adjacent to an Asian elephant nature reserve.
In China, wild Asian elephants are under top-class protection and mainly inhabit the southern regions of Yunnan, with a population of fewer than 300.
In Laos, revegetation follows the construction of every section. Five years on, the natural environment along the railway has remained as verdant and lush as it was before the bulldozers arrived.
GAME CHANGER FOR LAOS
With the operation of the railway, which has a maximum operating speed of 160 km/h, Laos has been converting itself from a landlocked country into a land-linked hub in the region.
The 422-km railway in the Lao section cuts transportation costs by 30 to 40 percent compared with those for road travel.
The travel time from Kunming to Vientiane takes about 10 hours, including Customs clearance time, a leapfrog development in the connectivity between the two countries.
"The railway will result in the growth of many industries like tourism, trade and investment, especially in the processing industry, and it's going to help a lot for Laos' post-pandemic recovery," Valy Vetsaphong, vice president of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and advisor to the Lao prime minister, said. Enditem