PETALING JAYA: Plans to turn Laos from a landlocked into land-linked nation is starting to take shape with the Savannakhet-Lao Bao rail project undertaken by Malaysian company Giant Consolidated Ltd (GCL) going through the final process of detailing and survey works.
The company's appointed designer, China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group Co is expected to be in Vientianne next week to meet officials of various ministries for this purpose.
GCL director Dr Tock Min Kin who confirmed this also said the company had handed over US$1.3mil (RM3.9mil) to the Laotian government to start preliminary work.
The fund was handed over to Laotian Planning and Investment Minister Somdy Duangdy last week, which according to GCL president Mohammad Fadzwi Hamidun, a sign of the company's commitment to the project.
The government will use the money to undertake preparatory work and to facilitate the implementation of the project.
The 220km electrified double-track railway project, estimated to cost US$5bil (RM15bil), is so far the largest investment made by a Malaysian company in Laos.
GCL has been awarded a 50-year concession to construct and operate the railway which would connect Savannakhet in the west to Lao Bao in the eastern part of Laos that borders Vietnam.
The signing of the master agreement for the project was witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his Laotian counterpart Thongsing Thammavong on Nov 5 on the sidelines of the Ninth Asia-Europe Summit.
Physical works are expected to kick off by June next year and aside from constructing railway tracks, the project would also create new growth areas as GCL would also build new development zones and townships at each stations.