Cambodia exploring effective railway line to ‘land-linked’ Laos

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A railway connection to Laos would boost ties with China, a transport ministry official said, citing Thailand as an example, which has a railway link from Bangkok to Thanaleng Railway Station. Heng Chivoan

A delegation of the Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA) is in Laos from June 21-23 to explore the particulars of setting up an effective railway line connecting the Kingdom to its northern neighbour that could best save transport time and costs.

The team was joined by representatives of the Vietnamese and Lao logistics sectors on a trip to three primary destinations, along with meetings to discuss the Southern Corridor of the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) project and other similar initiatives to link China with Mekong countries.

The three main stops comprised: a short ride on the Laos-China Railway, which runs from Vientiane to Kunming in China; the 382ha Vientiane Logistics Park (VLP), a major part of Laos’ ambitious plans to overcome its landlocked condition and become what it terms a “land-linked” country; and a site on Laos’ border with Vietnam, which is longer and closer to the Lao capital than Cambodia’s. Both the Laos-China Railway and VLP opened to great fanfare in December.

Before his departure for Laos on the evening of June 21, CLA president Sin Chanthy told the media that his team would seek to learn from the experiences surrounding the promising railway, from a logistics standpoint, and gather pertinent information and details. He said the team would also analyse logistics systems between Laos and Cambodia that involve Thailand.

CLA research has found that rail transport from China to Cambodia would reduce time travelled to four or five days, as opposed to 10-15 days by waterways, he said, commenting that the successful realisation of the TAR project would substantially facilitate transport.

He stressed that the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the CLA “have always discussed to find ways to lower transportation costs and save time, and be able to compete with our neighbours”.

Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Kong Vimean told The Post that his ministry, in cooperation with a Chinese company, is currently exploring potential routes for a railway linking Cambodia to Laos.

Although noting that recent studies have looked at areas near the Tonle Sap Lake and even considered a transfer station along the existing Phnom Penh-Poipet Line, Vimean conceded that research was preliminary and that no detailed reports have been published.

Ministry undersecretary of state Vasim Sorya said a link to Laos was included in a railway network master plan, but noted that it was unclear when or whether the Lao government would be keen or have the resources to build a 700-800km route from Vientiane to the Cambodian border.

Sorya also suggested improving transport connections between the two countries by other modes that are cheaper than rail, in the meantime. Still, he highlighted that a railway connection to Laos would boost ties with China, citing Thailand as an example, which has a railway link from Bangkok to Thanaleng Railway Station.