Laos commissions new feasibility study into rail link with Vietnam

The line will have to cross the Annamite Range to reach the Pacific Ocean (Gene Bromberg/CC BY-SA 2.0)
The government of Laos has commissioned a feasibility study into the construction of an electrified rail link with Vietnam, the latter’s state news agency said.

The Laos–Vietnam Railway Project (LVRP) would extend the country’s recently completed railway to Kunming, China some 330km as the crow flies to the border trading city of Thakhek, and then a further 140km to the Vietnamese port of Vung Ang.

The Lao government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Lao Petroleum Trading Company (PetroTrade), which will oversee the study. PetroTrade said it would hire consulting firms to carry out the work, which is expected to be completed within 24 months.

In the first phase, the railway would connect Thakhek with Vung Ang; the second phase would connect Thakhek to Vientiane. Construction will involve engineering a route through the Annamite range that forms the spine of Vietnam.

A feasibility study into the route was first announced in 2015, and was carried out by the Korea Rail Network Authority and Seoul University with a $3m grant from the Korea International Cooperation Agency.

That study, completed in 2017, found that 555km of track would have to be laid. It recommended speeds of 150 km/h and estimated that tunnels would make up a little over 7% of the line and bridges around 3%.

The study put the cost of the link at $5bn, a figure that is likely to have grown since. 

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