The Lao and Chinese governments have signed an agreement to officially launch the construction of a new 418 kilometre railway next month.
The agreement to begin the long-delayed project was signed on Friday in Beijing, the Vientiane Times online reported on Wednesday.
“The signing of the agreement means the project has now begun,” Deputy Lao Public Works and Transport Minister Lattanamany Khounnivong was quoted as saying.
Chinese officials were in the Lao capital to work with their Lao counterparts for the groundbreaking ceremony set for Dec 2, the newspaper added.
Laos and China earlier agreed on the date, the 40th anniversary of the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party’s formation, but they needed an agreement to confirm the project. Dec 2 is also the Lao National Day.
The train line of 418 kilometres will be built by a joint company set up by the two countries with loan funding expected to come from China.
Construction of the US$6.28 billion railway line, with a 1.435 metre gauge track, is expected to take about four years.
It will begin at the Chinese-Lao border in Luang Namtha province of Laos and connect with a train line in Thailand’s Nong Khai province.
Thailand and China planned a groundbreaking event for their train project in Pathum Thani’s Sam Khok district on Dec 19.
The Lao project is delayed as Beijing and Vientiane had been locked into a land dispute as China wanted to sponsor the construction in exchange for the right to use the land along the line. Laos rejected that proposal.
The deadlock ended after the two government agreed to jointly develop it.
Mr Lattanamany said the aread the tracks pass through will not be set aside for big projects.