A Chinese engineering company this week has finished drilling the Ban Phoukeua tunnel in Nga district, Oudomxay province, some 400km north of Vientiane, according to a Xinhua report.
The Ban Phoukeu tunnel was the final major tunnel to be drilled on the railway, measuring nearly 9km. It was the 73rd tunnel to be completed, laying a solid foundation for construction of the cross-border railway.
With a length of 8,936 metres, the Ban Phoukeu tunnel is among the 10 major tunnels that are longer than 5km.
Head of the project management committee, Chantoula Phanalasy, told Vientiane Times recently that completion of the construction of all 75 tunnels would soon be announced.
“We are expecting to hear confirmation from Chinese companies regarding the completion of all 75 tunnels, with a total length of 198km,” he said.
“Tunnels are a major part of the Laos-China railway and their completion is an important milestone in the construction of the railway.”
The Boten tunnel, with a length of 6,453 metres, was the first of the long tunnels to be drilled through by CREC-5 in March 2019, according to the Xinhua report. Also this month, construction of the 9.59-kilometre “friendship tunnel” was completed.
The cross-border tunnel comprises a 7.17-kilometre section in Yunnan province and 2.42 kilometre section on the Lao side of the border.
Although construction of the railway has been hindered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the complex geological situation and heavy rain, Chinese companies were able to make progress as planned.
Railway companies and workers are implementing the Covid-19 prevention and control policies promulgated by the Chinese and Lao governments.
As of August 31, the whole railway was more than 91 percent complete. The project is scheduled for completion in 2021 after construction began in 2016. The Laos-China railway is a strategic part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Laos’ plan to transform the country from being landlocked to a land link within the region. When it is operational, the railway will cut the cost of transport through Laos by 30-40 per cent compared to by road.
The 414.3-kilometre railway will run from the Boten border crossing in northern Laos, bordering China, to Vientiane, with trains running at a maximum speed of 160km per hour.
The government is confident the railway will drive forward socio-economic development and enable Laos to make greater progress. - Vientiane Times/Asian News Network
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