First Mekong Bridge Of China-Laos High Speed Rail Completed
Jul 29, 2019

The main section of the first huge Mekong river bridge for the China-Laos high speed railway connection has been completed on July 28, seven months ahead of schedule despite challenging conditions, Xinhua reported.

The completion of the Luang Prabang Mekong River Super Major Bridge – so its official name –, one of the two cross-Mekong bridges along the China-Laos Railway, indicated that the project has made major progress in its 2019 construction schedule.

The 1,458.9-meter bridge is located in the north of Luang Prabang’s famous Old Town, a world heritage in Laos, and some 220 kilometers north of the country’s capital Vientiane, with five main piers planted in the Mekong river.

According to the Laos-China Railway Company, which is in charge of the construction and the operation of the railway, the bridge was a challenging task involving complicated bridge building techniques. Difficulties were brought by the Mekong river with its turbulent currents, rapidly rising water level in the rainy season and squidgy riverbed.

Construction of the second Mekong river bridge on the route, the Ban Ladhan Mekong River Super Major Bridge, is also advancing and will be completed by the end of 2019, as scheduled, the report said.

The China-Laos railway, also called Vientiane–Boten Railway, is a standard gauge that runs for 414 kilometers between the capital of Laos, Vientiane, and Boten on the border between China and Laos. Operating speed on the route is designed at 160 km per hour.

It will be connected to the Chinese rail system through the Yuxi–Mohan railway and also be part of the future Kunming-Singapore railway network. It is further a major project in implementing China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

A whopping 47 per cent of the railway will be in tunnels and 15 per cent will pass over viaducts, spread over 75 tunnels and 167 bridges. There are 32 planned stations along the route. The final station will be Thanaleng railway station at the Thai border, not Vientiane Station. Another Mekong bridge will be constructed by 2023 from Thanaleng to Nongkhai in Thailand to connect the high speed rail network into Thailand.

The cost of the project is estimated at $5.95 billion, of which 12 per cent are financed by Laos directly, 28 per cent by China and the remaining 60 per cent by loans from Chinese banks. After completion, the railway will be majority-owned by China.

The ground-breaking ceremony of the railway was held in December 2015, and the construction of the route officially started a year later, while the railway is expected to become operational in December 2021.