VIENTIANE, Oct 13 (The Vientiane Times/ANN): China has opened another expressway linking the south of the country to the Lao border as part of efforts to strengthen regional connectivity and boost China-Asean economic cooperation.
In addition, the under-construction Vientiane-Boten expressway will link Vientiane to China’s expressway network and further reduce travel times between the two countries.
The governments of Laos and China believe that enhanced connectivity through new expressways will improve the region’s road network, boosting trade, investment and tourism, not only between Laos and China but throughout the region.
The Xiaomengyang-Mohan Freeway was built in 2017, forming an important section of the Kunming-Bangkok Highway via Laos.
A second expressway covering a distance of 49km from Yunnan province in southwest China to the Lao border also opened recently, according to a Xinhua report.
The Lao government and a Chinese company from Yunnan province are currently building the 460km expressway between Vientiane and Boten, under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model.
The government holds a 5 percent stake in the project while the Chinese company holds the remaining 95 percent share and has been granted a 50-year concession.
The Vientiane-Vangvieng section is the first stage of the Vientiane-Boten Expressway and is scheduled for completion in December this year, when it will be open to traffic.
The four-lane superhighway stretches for 109.1km and is expected to cost about US$1.3 billion. When completed, the road will cut travel time between Vientiane and Vangvieng from the current 2.5 hours to just 1.5 hours.
The other three planned sections of the Vientiane-Boten Expressway are Vangvieng-Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang-Oudomxay, and Oudomxay-Boten.
The Laos-China Joint Expressway Development Company Limited hopes to start construction of the second phase next year but this will depend on approval from the Lao government.
It is not yet known when the whole of the Vientiane-Boten Expressway will be completed and connected to China’s superhighway system. Over the past four years, cross-border infrastructure development has improved considerably and is boosting trade and commerce between Yunnan and the five Mekong countries.
Yunnan now has at least 40 international air routes to the Mekong countries and a number of major energy projects in Myanmar and Laos have been carried out, according to the Xinhua report. In 2019, the trade value between Yunnan and the Mekong countries climbed to US$15.47 billion.
In addition, China has built a railway to the Lao border to connect to the under-construction US$5.9-billion railroad between Vientiane and Boten, which covers a distance of 414km.
The Laos-China railway is now more than 90 per cent complete and is scheduled for completion next year, according to the project management committee.
It is projected that about 14 million people will use the train annually. It is China’s intention that the railway will connect Asean capitals, with Kunming acting as a regional logistics hub.
The Lao government considers the railway and the expressway to be pivotal in transforming the country from being landlocked to a land link within the region, reducing the cost of transport and boosting the country’s economy. - Vientiane Times/Asian News Network