After facing pandemic-related delays, the high-speed China-Laos railway has officially begun cross-border passenger service.
hopes that the new service will increase movement in the region and
boost its economy, which has suffered due to various factors including
high crude oil prices and currency depreciation following the Russian
invasion of Ukraine.
The 1,000km route connects Vientiane, the Laotian capital, and
Kunming in China's Yunnan province, and includes a stop at the UNESCO
World Heritage site of Luang Prabang.
Although the route was completed in December 2021, it had been
limited to passenger service within each country and cross-border
freight transit due to China's strict coronavirus border measures.
The service is currently limited to one train between the two
countries per day in each direction, and the trip from Vientiane to
Kunming takes 10 to 11 hours, including immigration procedures.
The China-led railway project is part of Beijing's Belt and Road
Initiative. Media in both countries have emphasised the railway's
effectiveness, with a reported 10 million passengers using its domestic
legs by the end of January.