China-Laos Railway sees progress after two years

China Daily|Updated: December 4, 2023

The high-profile China-Laos Railway has facilitated roughly 24 million passenger trips and hauled about 29 million metric tons of cargo over the past two years, injecting vitality into regional socioeconomic development, according to China State Railway Group.

Saturday marked the railway's two-year anniversary. As of that day, 24.2 million passenger trips have been handled along the line, with 3.74 million in the Laotian section. The railway has transported 29.1 million tons of cargo, 6 million of which were cross-border goods.

The railway department has focused on improving service quality to better serve passengers' needs. Passengers can buy tickets by using apps on their mobile phones that are linked to local bank accounts. More ticket booths have been set up in Vientiane, capital of Laos, and Luang Prabang, a popular tourism destination in the country.

In the Chinese section, 20.46 million passenger trips were recorded over the past two years. Every day, an average of 51 trains were operated during that period, with the daily peak number of passenger trips hitting 83,000.

In the Laotian section, 3.74 million passenger trips were recorded during the period. The number of trains operated every day increased to 10 from four when the rail service began operating, and the daily peak passenger trip number reached 10,197.

International passenger train services between Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, to Vientiane began on April 13.

Since then, about 95,000 passengers from 72 countries and regions have used the service to travel between the two cities, and the number of international passenger trips has increased from about 600,000 to 1.1 million every month.

The convenience of the service has boosted international passenger travel in Laos and has also improved cross-border cargo transportation in the region.

The number of cross-border freight trains has increased from two to 14 every day. About 400 are involved in cross-border operations as part of the Lancang-Mekong Express freight train service, including those that run on the China-Laos Railway. Cargo transported on the line has been delivered from 31 major cities in China to 12 countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, including Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.

The establishment of the China-Laos Railway and the China-Europe freight train service has led to the creation of new international logistics routes and transportation modes. With these services, freight transportation between Southeast Asian countries, including Laos and Thailand, and Europe can be reduced to about 15 days.

A freight yard tailored for cargo loading and reloading in Vientiane to meet the width of the tracks in Thailand was put into operation last year, linking railway networks in China, Laos and Thailand. Since the yard's opening, 101 trains carrying 3,838 containers have completed loading and reloading.

The railway department has cooperated with tourism departments from China and Laos to open a number of tourism routes between Kunming and Vientiane, which has promoted the rapid development of the tourism economy in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan and Luang Prabang in Laos, according to the company.

A Beijing resident surnamed Wang is considering taking her family to spend the Spring Festival holiday in Laos via the China-Laos Railway.

One of the main reasons is the convenience of the service.

"With the kid and parents, I'd prefer a place that is warm and convenient that we can visit on a reasonable budget," she said, adding that having no luggage limit on trains also attracted her.

Her friend has been to Luang Prabang by train and strongly recommended it to her.

The 1,035-kilometer China-Laos Railway is an electrified line that links Kunming with Vientiane. The railway stretches 422.4 km within Laos, linking the northern border city of Boten with Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and other cities, including the capital.

Before the China-Laos Railway opened, Laos only had a 3.5-km railway that transported cargo to and from Thailand.