First tunnel bored on epic China-Laos railway

Punching through clay and sandstone, contractors this week completed the first of many tunnels in mountainous Laos needed for the $5.8bn cross-country railway now being built there, financed by China.

Ground conditions made boring the 301-metre tunnel in central Vientane Province risky and dangerous but the project was completed successfully, its contractor, Sino Corporation Engineering Bureau 15 Co., told state news agency Xinhua.

The Ban Somsanook No. 2 Tunnel, as it is called, will be the first of many on the 414-km railway linking Mohan-Boten on the China-Laos border in the north of the country with its capital, Vientiane.

The mountainous terrain of Laos means that more than 62% of the total length will comprise bridges and tunnels, making the railway, which is part of China’s long-term plan for a rail link all the way through Thailand to Singapore, expensive and difficult.

The subject of talks since 2006, work on the China-Laos railway finally started on 25 December, 2016.

As GCR reported then, concerns have been raised that the Chinese loans for the railway will saddle impoverished Laos, a country of about 7 million people, with crushing debt.

Image: The mouth of the Ban Somsanook No. 2 Tunnel, in Vientane Province, Laos, the first to be bored on the historic China-Laos Railway (Xinhua/Liu Ailun)

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