Laos, Thailand launch freight train service

LAO PDR (Vientiane Times) - Laos and Thailand have launched a freight train service across the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge between Vientiane and Nong Khai to facilitate import and export businesses.

The inaugural freight train from Thailand arrives at Thanaleng railway station container yard in Vientiane last week.

An official ceremony greeted the inaugural freight train from Thailand, which arrived last week at Thanaleng railway station container yard in Vientiane. An official from the Lao Department of Railways said the train will operate daily services across the Mekong.

The first shipment of goods from Thailand will arrive in Laos at around 6am, and the train will depart at 8am, taking commodities from Laos to Laem Chabang port in Thailand. A second service arrives in Laos at 7pm with the train leaving for Thailand at 9pm. The official said about 10 or 20 containers would be shipped in and out of Laos. The total amount of cargo will depend on the size of the containers.

The freight train service is a part of the transport and economic cooperation between the governments of Laos and Thailand. At the inauguration ceremony, a senior official from the Department of Railways, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said the first phase of the railway construction project benefited from loans and grants worth 197 million baht under the Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Agency (NEDA) of Thailand.

A 3.5-km railway track was completed at the end of 2008 and services began in 2009, under an agreement signed by the two governments on March 30, 2008. There are now two daily passenger train services between Thanaleng and Nong Khai stations using the 6-km railway line, which carry an average of 35,000 passengers a year.

The Lao government and NEDA signed another agreement in June 2012 for a loan and grant worth 1,650 million baht for the second phase of the railway project. Seventy percent of this amount is a loan and 30 percent is grant-in-aid. The second phase has been divided into two stages. The first stage, which began in March 2013 and was completed in September 2015, saw the construction of facilities such as a container yard, office, indoor storage, and railway access to the container yard. The construction cost was 655 million baht. The second stage will see the installation of track from Thanaleng to Vientiane station in Khamsavad village, over a distance of 7.5km. The construction agreement was signed on July 28, 2019. Work is expected to start in October this year and be complete by December 2021.

To ensure the use of the container yard matches its objectives, the railway department of Laos and train department of Thailand signed a technical agreement on May 8, 2018, to prepare for the freight service. The departments of both countries have coordinated closely to facilitate the project, which is vital for upcoming Lao-Chinese and Thai-Chinese freight services.

Last week’s ceremony was attended by the Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr Viengsavad Siphandone, Ambassador of Thailand to Laos, Mr Kiattikhun Chartprasert, and officials and business operators from the two countries.