By Wang Yantian, Sun Guangyong, People’s Daily
On the morning of April 13, 2023, an olive green Fuxing bullet train was ready to leave the Kunming South Railway Station, southwest China’s Yunnan province, and kick off the cross-border passenger service of the China-Laos Railway.
The D887 high-speed train officially departed on 8:08 am and went all the way south, carrying the joy of both the Chinese and Lao peoples. An hour later, the D888 train left Vientiane for Kunming.
Now it takes passengers only less than a day to go from Kunming to the Lao capital, or the other way around, which has injected new vitality to the China-Laos Railway, a railway of friendship.
The China-Laos Railway was officially put into use on Dec. 3, 2021. Linking China’s Kunming, Pu’er and Xishuangbanna, as well as Luang Prabang and Vientiane of Laos, it has become a golden logistics channel that connects China and Laos and even Southeast Asia at large after 16 months of operation. It vitalizes regional economic and trade cooperation and exchanges.
“The shipping cost for cargo transport between Kunming and Vientiane has been lowered by 40 percent to 50 percent since the China-Laos Railway opened, and that for domestic shipping in Laos by 20 percent to 40 percent,” said Jin Zhiyuan, general manager of Sinotrans, a major freight service provider along the China-Laos Railway. According to him, the company will send over 100 containers to China through the railway.
So far, 25 Chinese provinces have launched cross-border trains along the China-Laos Railway, which reach Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore and other countries and regions along the Belt and Road. The number of cargo categories has been expanded from 10 to over 2,000, including electronic and photovoltaic products as well as cold-chain fruits. The value of cargos transported has exceeded 17 billion yuan ($2.48 billion).
The transport efficiency and capacity of the China-Laos Railway have significantly improved. The time of customs clearance for cargos transported along the route has been reduced to five hours from more than 40.
The potential of this railway has been constantly released since this year. In the first quarter, the railway transported 5.16 million tons of cargos, up 215 percent year on year. In particular, 1.1 million tons were transnational , which was nearly three times the amount from a year ago.
The cross-border passenger service launched this time is of important significance to facilitating the flow of people along the railway and to promoting the development of the Chinese and Lao tourism.
It is learned that a train departs from both Kunming and Vientiane each day, and the whole trip costs 10.5 hours, including the time spent on going through customs.
“To better serve cross-border passengers, there are Chinese and Lao standard power sockets under each set of chairs on the train, information display, radio and service signs are offered in Chinese, Lao and English,” said Zhao Yingjing, conductor of the first cross-border passenger train along the railway.
It is reported that the tickets for the passenger service were sold out in just 20 minutes after they were released.
“The tourism industry has sensed the new market created by the China-Laos international passenger service,” said Yang Jiechen, head of a Thailand-based tourism company. According to him, the train trip from China’s Mohan port to Laos and Thailand is expected to become a hot tourism route.
The China-Laos Railway, like a “key” to the Indochina Peninsula, has opened an economic channel connecting China, Southeast Asia and South Asia.
The railway not only has improved the transport infrastructure of Laos, but also will drive the country’s economic development, said a Lao PhD student of Yunnan University, who names himself Wen Pengyu in Chinese.