National Assembly members decided to approve the project, after concluding that it is essential for national development at a time when economic integration is viewed as the future of the region.
Laos and China had previously planned to undertake jointly the railway project, which would connect Vientiane with the Laos-China border in Luang Namtha province. However, the project was delayed when the Chinese construction company pulled out because they felt it would not be profitable enough.
Laos has now decided to assume sole ownership of the project, as it considers that transforming the country from being landlocked to a land link is central to the future of the nation's development. The railway is now set to go ahead without any other direct stakeholders, but will be financed by a loan from China.
The railway will be about 420km long and will require construction of 76 tunnels and 154 bridges to be built, including two bridges across the Mekong River. The tunnels and bridges alone represent more than 60% of the total route, such is the mountainous nature of northern Laos. The project will include 31 stations in all, but the government plans to open 20 stations initially and the rest later on.