The China-Laos Railway Company (LCRC) officially announced that the last of the 75 tunnels required for the China-Laos railway project have been completed, bringing an end to the epic, large-scale civil engineering work the line required. The milestone was arrived at only recently when engineers completed Xiang Ngeun Number 3 Tunnel in Luang Prabang Province, some 210 km north of Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The line that has 75 tunnels in total, allowing the line to pass through around 120km of mountains and forests.
In June of this year, China Railway Guangzhou Engineering Group completed the 9.3km Ban Nakok Tunnel after over two years of drilling through four fault zones and the deployment of “scientific and technological innovations”. An even longer tunnel, 15.2km in length, was bored in China’s Yunnan Province by China Railway 17th Bureau Group. The extreme nature of the project is reflected in the fact that the line will have 198km of tunnels and 62km of bridges – rather more than half the length of the line.
Completion of the tunnels and bridges on the China-Laos railway means that the remainder of the work will be taken up with building stations, laying track, and setting up control systems. So far, about 148km of rail track has been laid and the first station, at Nateuy, has been topped out. China Railway Construction Group began work on Vientiane station, the largest of the line’s 20 stops, at the beginning of July. The electrified 414km railway in Laos will run from Boten station, on the border between China and Laos, to Vientiane, with freight and passengers traveling at 160 km/h. The cost of the project is estimated at US$6bn, or roughly a third of Laos’ GDP. The project broke ground in December 2016 and is scheduled to begin running trains in December 2021.