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China-Laos Railway starts cross-border passenger services

Xinhua | April 13, 2023


The China-Laos Railway started cross-border passenger services on Thursday, a move that is expected to boost regional connectivity.

The first passenger train departed from Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, at 8:08 a.m. (Beijing Time), heading for the Lao capital Vientiane.

The train, which is packed to capacity for this trip, will travel at a speed of up to 160 km per hour through mountains and valleys. There are eight stations along the route that stretches over 1,000 km, and the journey takes 10 and a half hours, including the time spent on going through customs.

A passenger train bound for the Lao capital Vientiane awaits departure from Kunming South Railway Station in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province, April 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Xing Guangli)

Liu Jin, 32, is on this first train along with his mother, and they are traveling to Luang Prabang in Laos. He has made eight previous trips to Laos, usually by bus, when his journey lasted more than 27 hours on winding mountain roads.

"The launch of cross-border train services has made traveling to Laos much easier," said Liu. "It cuts the travel time and offers great comfort."

Shortly after 9 a.m. (Beijing Time), a train departed from Vientiane for Kunming. Starting Thursday, one passenger train will operate daily from Kunming to Vientiane and another one the other way around.

Lao and Chinese drivers of a cross-border passenger train bound for Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan Province prepare for departure from Vientiane, Laos on April 13, 2023. (Photo by Yang Yongquan/Xinhua)

The China-Laos Railway, a landmark project showcasing high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, began operation in December 2021. The railway also serves as a docking project with Laos' strategy to convert itself from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub.

After its launch in 2021, passenger train services have been offered along the section between Kunming and the Chinese border town of Mohan, as well as the section connecting Vientiane and Boten, the border town on the Lao side.

As of Sunday, 13.93 million domestic passenger trips had been handled and 18.38 million tonnes of cargo transported on the China-Laos Railway.

The first cross-border passenger train from Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province to the Lao capital Vientiane passes by tea plantations in Pu'er, southwest China's Yunnan Province, April 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Jiang Wenyao)


People on both sides of the border have been looking forward to the launch of the cross-border passenger train services with excitement and hope.

Chen Pei, deputy general manager of the China Railway Kunming Group Co., Ltd, hailed the newly launched services as a move that meets the needs of the two peoples and cements their friendship.

"The launch of cross-border passenger services will meet the aspirations of the people of the two countries for cross-border travel and continue to foster a path of development, happiness and friendship," Chen said.

Passengers pose for a photo aboard the first cross-border passenger train from Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province to the Lao capital Vientiane on April 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Hu Chao)

Manilanh, a food vendor in Vientiane, was visibly excited to welcome the first group of passengers traveling via the cross-border train. "The launch of the service is a milestone for Laos, which makes me feel like I'm part of the history," she said.

In September 2021, Dai Rui, a China Railway Kunming Group staffer, traveled to Laos to provide training to railway attendants in the country. One of the attendants who benefitted from Dai's guidance was Thierry Thongkhammy, who works in the Lao section of the railway. Thanks to Dai's expertise, she was able to quickly hone her professional skills and enhance her performance.

"Dai would frequently speak about the beautiful sceneries of Kunming and introduce me to the delicious local cuisine. I've been eagerly looking forward to visiting the city," she said. "With the cross-border passenger services, I can go there by train now."

China Railway Kunming Group has sent more than 540 employees to work in the Lao section and they helped train over 700 Lao railway workers.

A train attendant checks a passenger's ticket and travel document aboard the first cross-border passenger train from Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province to the Lao capital Vientiane on April 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Hu Chao)

"The physical link of the railway tracks has strengthened the link of hearts between the two peoples," said Ma Yong, head of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences.

"China and Laos are geographically close and people of the two countries have fostered solid friendship," Ma said, adding that the cross-border passenger trains are of great significance in facilitating travel, promoting economic and trade exchanges between the two countries, and advancing high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.


Since it began operation, the China-Laos Railway has promoted regional connectivity, brought opportunities to enterprises and individuals in both countries, and injected strong impetus into the economic and social development along the route.

In particular, the railway has emerged as a crucial factor in boosting Laos' tourism industry, which plays a pivotal role in strengthening its economy.

The Lao tourism authorities anticipate that around 368,000 Chinese travelers will visit the country in 2023, up 21 percent from 2022.

A passenger shows her ticket aboard the first cross-border passenger train from Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province to the Lao capital Vientiane on April 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Hu Chao)

"The launch of cross-border passenger trains has ushered in a new chapter in deepening cooperation between China and neighboring countries," Meng Rui, president of Yunnan tourism planning and research institute.

"It has added another fast and convenient travel route between China and Laos, becoming a new highlight of the already prosperous tourism industry in Yunnan," Meng said, adding that he expects a significant increase in the number of Chinese tourists to Laos, as well as tourists from Laos and third countries visiting China.

People in Chengzi Village, which is adjacent to the China-Laos Railway in Yunnan's Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, are gearing up to seize new opportunities.

"A lot of villagers have refurbished their houses into homestays in a bid to attract tourists," said Ai Hanpeng, the village head. "With the launch of the cross-border passenger trains, we are expecting more foreign visitors."

"The railway serves as the foundation of our development," Ai said, adding that developing rural tourism has enabled villagers to share the dividends of the railway.