The railway system, connecting more than 300 million people who live around one of the world’s great rivers, the Mekong, will come a step closer when ministers from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) meet in Vietnam today.
It is “the first step in developing and implementing an integrated railway system in the sub-region,” Kunio Senga, director general of ADB’s Southeast Asia department, said in a foreword to the 25-page plan.
Except for a line that connects China and Vietnam, the six nations’ national railway systems do not link up, and Laos has no rail network at all.
The plan sketches four possible ways of connecting the region but it says one is most viable. It would stretch from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and up to Nanning and Kunming, largely using existing lines or those already under construction.
While much has already been done to develop East-West and North-South road links through the Mekong countries, transport routes must be turned into “economic corridors” to promote investment and development in the periphery, not just the major cities, said Arjun Goswami, who heads the ADB’s regional cooperation and integration group.