On 6 October, Phankham Viphavanh, prime minister of Laos announced that the China-Laos railway will open on 2 December as scheduled, with future plans to extend line to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Once operational, it will be China’s first international railway that links Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province to Laotian capital Vientiane.
According to a statement from the China Railway Group, the China-Laos train will help convert the smaller nation from "a land-locked country to a land-linked country".
Developed by the China State Railway Group, the Lane Xang EMU train, will travel at 160km/h and carry a maximum capacity of 720 passengers. The 1,000km route will take less than a day to ride from one end to the other.
From a Vientiane Times report, the government assured that the railway's operations will comply with Covid-19 measures, as Vientiane and many provinces continue to be under lockdown, raising safety concerns over the new launch.
As well, initial operations will focus on freight transport, and tourist journeys offered later when the pandemic situation stabilises.
The opening of this railway has been six years in the making, after the Chinese and Lao governments signed an intergovernmental railway cooperation agreement in 2015, marking the official entry of the China-Laos railway into the implementation phase.
The launch of this railway is just one of the many steps in China’s envisioned Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure to eventually connect Asia, Europe, Africa and more.
Plans are already being made to extend this railway to Bangkok, Thailand before running through Malaysia towards Singapore. This will mark the central route of the Pan-Asia railway network, while the Eastern and Western routes will involve the Chinese railways branching out into other parts of Thailand and into Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar.