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Thai PM visits first cross-border rail link


March 31, 2008

Thai PM visits first cross-border rail link

Thailand Prime minister Samak Sundaravej on Sunday visited the first rail link between Thailand and Laos, aimed at facilitating landlocked Laos in its transportation network and to boost economy and tourism between the two countries, reported Thai News Agency.

Samak, who was on his way to attend the two day Third Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) summit which started Sunday in Vientiane, stopped at the construction site of the rail link which will connect the Thai border province of Nong Khai with Thanaleng on the opposite side of the Mekong River.

The project, initiated by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is partly financed by the Thai government. Total investment in construction of the 3.5 km rail track is 197 million baht ($1 = 31.4 baht), in which 70 percent of the total investment would be provided as a loan and the remainder given free.

Construction began in early 2007 and to date about 96 percent of total work has been completed. Service on the rail link is expected to start this May.

Meanwhile, construction of a new Thai-Lao bridge, aimed at boosting trade and tourism among Thailand, Laos and China, was expected to start in the middle of this year.

According to Piyapan Champasut, Thai deputy permanent secretary for transport, total investment in the construction was estimated at 1 billion baht which will be footed equally by the Thai and Chinese governments.

The new bridge, which will link Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai with Laos’ Huayxai province, is expected to open in 2011. The bridge will serve to link northern Thailand with Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, passing through Laos.

The planned opening of the new bridge in 2011 would facilitate a second port in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai, due to open at around the same time, and would help boost trade between the three countries in the future, said Mr. Piyapan.

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