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Economy

Railway comes as a boost for Lao business

2024-07-03 10:02:39China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Nilavan, a railway freight duty officer at the Vientiane South Station on the China-Laos Railway, is excited to see the drastic changes in the station over the past two and a half years.

"We now have more and more customers coming to ship their goods at our station," said Nilavan, a 26-year-old Laotian, in fluent Mandarin.

In 2023, the daily dispatch capacity of fruits was only about 60 containers and the number has now grown to over 100 during peak time, said Nilavan, adding that the railway not only connects Laos, China and Thailand but also further links to Europe.

Located 15 kilometers east of the Lao capital, the Vientiane South Station is the largest freight station on the Lao section of the China-Laos railway that connects Vientiane with Kunming in Southwest China's Yunnan province.

Since the China-Laos Railway, a landmark project between the two countries under the Belt and Road Initiative, was officially launched in December 2021, it has become an important logistics route in the region by reducing the transport time from Vientiane to the Lao border Boten to about three hours from 16 hours by bus.

In 2023, Vientiane South Station Transloading Yard handled 170 transloading trains and 5,045 containers, with remarkable results in interconnectivity, according to Laos-China Railway Co, or LCRC, a joint venture between companies from both countries for managing the Lao section of the railway.

"Leveraging the role of Vientiane South Station Transloading Yard as a link connecting Laos and Thailand, the LCRC strengthens communication with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport of Laos and relevant parties to promote the regular joint operation of the China-Laos-Thailand Railway," said LCRC General Manager Liu Hong.

For example, through this station, durian from Thailand can be transported to Kunming in just three days, Liu said.

"Usually for a new railway route, you need some time to grow the number of passengers and goods," said Du Zhigang, an operation director of LCRC who has been in the industry for about 30 years. "But for the China-Laos Railway, everything has been in high demand since the beginning so I can say it is a really popular route now."

On the Chinese side of the China-Laos Railway, Yexianggu Railway Station, or Wild Elephant Valley Railway Station, is also actively upgrading its facility to cope with the rising demand.

Yexianggu station is a passenger and cargo station located in Mengyang town, Jinghong city of Yunnan province. It is one of the busiest cargo stations along the China-Laos Railway.

Busy station

Since the opening of the China-Laos Railway, a total of 4.18 million metric tons of cargo have been sent from the Yexianggu station as of May 2024, according to Chen Haican, the station's railway freight duty officer.

"Among them, 1.04 million tons of goods were delivered in the first five months of 2024, a year-on-year increase of 25 percent," said Chen. "A total of 260,000 tons of goods were delivered in May, an increase of 71 percent year-on-year."

Though the station's initial designed capacity was only 560,000 tons per year, Chen said it is working to upgrade the annual cargo handling capacity to 3 million tons in the short term and eventually to 6 million tons in the long run.

The number of staff members has also increased from 40 to 120 to ensure smooth operation around the clock, he said, adding that the station can arrange for shipment the next day at the earliest upon receipt of the order.

For Nilavan in Vientiane South Station, though work has become busier for her, the international trade graduate from Yunnan Normal University is happy that she can make use of the knowledge she learned in China.

In September, she will go to Kunming to receive training and she hopes that one day she can take her family and friends onto the China-Laos Railway to Yunnan for sightseeing.

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