China, Laos Plan High-Speed Rail Link

The bullet-train rail line will be completed in around 2014, Laotian Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad was quoted by the Wall Street Journal of saying.

Landlocked Laos, which has one of the fastest growing economies in the region, currently has only 3.5 kilometres (2.1 miles) of train track, running from the Thai border town of Nong Khai to Thanaleng.

“We believe this project should contribute significantly to the socioeconomic development of Laos, as well as to the promotion of economic cooperation between (Southeast Asia) and China,” Somsavat said, on the sidelines of an international rail conference in Beijing.

The long-discussed train system connecting hundreds of millions of people would symbolise the growing economic links between China and countries such as Laos and Thailand, the report said.

While the exact route is not yet clear, the rail line is expected to connect the southwest Chinese city of Kunming with Singapore, passing through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia, it said.

Speaking at the same conference, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said his country was also “looking forward to the prospects of connected rail networks in Asia.”

China, which already has built a high-speed rail network that as of November stretched 7,531 kilometres across the vast country, is expected to supply much of the train technology for the project.

Amid growing pressure on the country’s own rail network, China’s railways ministry said in July that it would spend about 120 billion dollars to nearly double the nation’s high-speed rail network by 2012.

Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang meanwhile told the conference that China was “encouraging” its train producers and other concerns to “go global.”

He said China was ready to “share its technological achievements” with other countries, without elaborating.

The comments follow concerns by train makers in other countries that Chinese companies are using tweaked or “re-engineered” Western technology to bid on contracts — an accusation Chinese officials deny.

Foreign train producers maintain that selling such technology outside China would be a violation of China’s agreements with them.

Alstom and Bombardier said Tuesday they had signed agreements with China to speed up development of rail transport in the country and also in overseas markets.

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