China-Laos Railway changes people's life along "road to happiness"
  ·  2023-04-18  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

The first cross-border passenger train departing from the Lao capital Vientiane to Kunming, the capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, runs on the Ganlanba bridge of the China-Laos railway in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province, on April 13 (XINHUA) 

Bounthavy, a young man from the tourist city of Luang Prabang in northern Laos, felt a bustling aura of the Lao New Year not seen for years in his hometown.

He attributed it to the China-Laos Railway, which launched the cross-border passenger service on Thursday to shorten the travel time between Kunming, the capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province and the Lao capital Vientiane to 10 and a half hours.

Historic event 

"I feel proud to see the changes the China-Laos Railway has brought to my hometown!" said Bounthavy, who has been working as an interpreter during the construction of the China-Laos Railway stations.

Tourists, he said, are swarming in for the Lao New Year holiday, and hotels in Luang Prabang are operating at full capacity. Many of his fellow villagers applauded the development and changes brought by the railway, expecting a brighter future for their hometown.

The launch of the cross-border passenger service of the China-Laos Railway, a major part of the trans-Asian railway network, has been hailed as a historic event for Laos, as the landlocked country has realized its dream of becoming a land-linked hub in the region and beyond.

The railway will now become a "golden key" for Laos to connect with China and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which will greatly benefit the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation.

People-to-people exchanges

On the D888 train that departed Thursday from Vientiane for Kunming, Alounsack, a Lao passenger who took his family to Kunming for the Lao New Year holiday, was more than excited to be one of the first-day passengers.

"I would like to invite Lao people to come to take this historic train to China, to see their country, and invite Chinese to visit Laos through the railway that we jointly develop," he said, beaming with happiness.

Souklati, a staff member who performed Lao traditional singing and dancing for passengers, said she felt happy and proud to become part of the event.

"The opening of this cross-border railway is very important by making it convenient to travel internationally. Students or tourists, they have another way of travel to choose from. It will help the economy, transportation, trade, tourism to flourish, and there will be more people coming and going," she said.

"Cross-border passenger service on the China-Laos Railway will support the Lao government's policy to transform itself from being a landlocked country into a land link, as a regional one or even a global one," said Khampheuy Philapha, director general of Lao News Agency (KPL).

Thonglor Duangsavanh, editor-in-chief of local daily Vientiane Times, said that the cross-border passenger service will greatly promote Laos' national socio-economic development and facilitate people-to-people exchanges between the two neighbors.

"That may be recorded in the history book of cooperation between Laos and China," said Suanesavanh Vignaket, the Lao minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, on the first day of the cross-border passenger service.

Flourishing tourism 

In northern Laos' tourist town of Vang Vieng, locals splashed water to celebrate the Lao New Year in the scorching April sun.

Despite its impressive landscapes such as karst terrain and strange caves, Vang Vieng has long been little known to the outside world for lack of transportation.

"Since the opening of the China-Laos Railway, it only takes one hour to travel from Vientiane to Vang Vieng, and the ticket price is cheaper than that of the bus. The number of tourists coming to Vang Vieng is two or three times that of the past," said Vang Vieng station passenger duty attendant Anhsamay Gnommilavong.

During the new year holiday, the ticket offices were crowded with passengers at the stations of Vientiane and Vang Vieng. Some were going home for family reunions, some visiting tourist sites, and there were also tourists coming from Europe and America.

A Canadian tourist with the first name of Michael, told Xinhua at Vang Vieng Station that this was the second time he had traveled to Laos with his family.

"Last time we only visited Vientiane due to inconvenient transportation. Now with the convenient and comfortable China-Laos Railway, we can travel around northern Laos. I believe this journey will be very pleasant," he said.

Statistics from the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism show that since the China-Laos Railway opened on December 3, 2021, it has activated the Lao tourism economy, as 85 percent of tourists from Vientiane to Luang Prabang have chosen to take the train.

As of April 14, 3,049 passenger trains have been running on the Lao section of the China-Laos Railway, carrying 2.22 million passengers. This year, 834 passenger trains have been running, transporting 778,000 passengers. The average passenger load rate reached 97.85 percent, and the highest daily count of passengers amounted to 10,197 on March 4.

Vignaket, the Lao minister, told Xinhua that with the support of the two governments, the Laos-China Railway, a landmark Belt and Road project, has turned from a blueprint into a reality, which will go down in the history of bilateral cooperation.

Liu Hong, general manager of Laos-China Railway Co. Ltd., said the railway is just a starting point. The iron dragon, carrying the friendship, dreams and hopes of the two peoples, is speeding towards a brighter future.

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