The Boten – Vientiane railway (also known as the China-Laos railway) is a new railway that will connect Kunming in China to Vientiane in Laos. From Boten on the China/Laos border the railway will travel 414 km through Laos to the capital of Vientiane. The only railway in Laos is a border station operated by the State Railway of Thailand. This will be the first railway in the landlocked nation of Laos.
The railway is being built by Chinese companies and is partly funded by China. In addition to the Laos section, China is also building a new railway from Kunming to the Laos border. At the southern end, Thailand is preparing to build a new railway that will connect to this line. Once this is complete it will be possible to travel from Bangkok to China by train.
The railway is standard gauge (like China and Europe) and it will be an electric-powered railway. Thailand runs on a metre gauge (as does most of Southeast Asia), so Thailand is building a new railway to be able to connect with this line.
After years of planning and negotiations, work on the railway officially began on Christmas Day in 2016. The railway is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
The line is 414.332 kilometres, of which there is 258.5 kilometres of bridges and tunnels. The line is a single-track railway with some double-track sections for passing.
Trains will operated at a speed of 160 km/h between Boten and Vang Vieng, and 200 km/h between Vang Vieng and Vientiane. Cargo trains will travel at 120 km/h.
Map of Boten – Vientiane railway
Map of Boten – Vientiane Railway
Stations on the Boten – Vientiane railway
There are 20 stations on the line, with provision to add more stations in the future.
3. Na Mor
4. Na Thong
5. Muong Xai
6. Ban Na Coc
7. Muong Nga
8. Houang Kha
9. Luang Prabang
10. Xiang Ngeun
11. Sala Pac Thu
12. Muang Kasi
13. Ban Pha Tang
14. Vang Vieng
15. Vang Khi
17. Ban Phonsuong
18. Vientiane North
20. Vientiane South
Links and Resources
There is no official Lao Railway site yet, so most information is via news sources and construction companies.
Laos Railways – Information on every planned railway.
skyscrapercity.com – Forum with news links and construction photos.
treasuresoflaos.blogspot.com – Lots of posts about the construction, with a Google Map that includes bridge and tunnel locations.
Railway ODX – Facebook fan page about the railway in Oudomxay province.
The following links are the news archives of the China–Laos railway.
China-Laos railway seals roof of border gate station – [22/12/20]
“With the cast of the last can of concrete, the main structure of Boten Station, Laos’ border gate station along the China-Laos railway, constructed by the China Railway Construction Engineering Group (CRCEG) was successfully concluded.”
Government signs on for railway land development deal – [15/12/20]
“The Laos-China Railway Co. is to develop areas surrounding railway stations in Vientiane Capital, Vientiane Province, Oudomxay, and Luang Prabang.”
Laos-China railway may not be completed on schedule – [30/11/20]
Thousands wait for railway compensation in Laos’ Oudomxay Province – [16/11/20]
“The Lao-China railway project is now more than 90 percent complete, but around 500 families affected by the construction in Laos’ northwestern Oudomxay province still lack adequate shelter and access to clean water, sources in the country told RFA.”
China-Laos railway holes all 75 tunnels – [29/09/20]
“Xiang Ngeun No. 3 Tunnel, the last tunnel along the China-Laos Railway in Luang Prabang Province, some 210 km north of Lao capital Vientiane, was drilled through on Tuesday.”
The China-Laos railway: a way out of poverty or a white elephant in waiting? – [26/09/20]
“Critics of the Belt and Road Initiative rail link through Laos from China point to its devastating environmental impact and potential economic ruin for an already fragile economy. Others hope it can take Laos from landlocked to ‘land-linked’.”
Onboard China’s Belt and Road Express: Does Laos stand to benefit? – [31/07/20]
“The first piece of track on Kunming-Vientiane railway was laid in April as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. But with the project steaming ahead, does Laos stand to actually see any benefits from the project, or is it merely in Beijing’s interest?”
Main structure of super bridge for China-Laos railway completed in SW China – [30/07/20]
“The main structure of a super bridge on the China-Laos Railway was completed in southwest China’s Yunnan Province on Wednesday, marking a 90 -percent completion of the line’s bridge projects within China and laying the foundation for the completion of the whole line next year.”
Construction of China-Laos railway’s Vientiane station starts – [03/07/20]
“With a construction area of 14,543 square meters, the station can hold maximum 2,500 passengers”.
70th tunnel of China-Laos Railway drilled through in SW China – [30/06/20]
“The completion of the 11.84 km-long tunnel lays a foundation for the punctual opening of the railway in late 2021, which will connect southwest China’s Kunming city to the Laotian capital of Vientiane. With a total length of over 1,000 km, the China-Laos railway will shorten traveling time between the two cities to half a day.”
9km tunnel completed on China-to-Laos railway – [24/06/20]
“A Chinese contractor working on the Laos section of the Kunming-Vientiane railway broke through on a 9-km-long tunnel on Sunday, 21 June in Laos’ mountainous Oudomxay Province. China Railway Guangzhou Engineering Group drilled 9,296 metres through four fault zones for the Ban Nakok Tunnel”.
Laos-China railway almost 90% complete – [09/06/20]
China-Laos railway starts recruiting local employees – [29/05/20]
Fifteen-kilometer tunnel on China-Laos railway completed – [24/05/20]
“The Ganzhuang tunnel, located in Yuanjiang County in the city of Yuxi, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, was the first high-risk tunnel with a length of more than 15 km to be built along the railway line”.
Work completed on tunnel for railway link – [04/05/20]
“Work on the country’s third longest tunnel at Namor district in Oudomxay province, which is part of the Laos-China Railway Project, has been completed.”
China-Laos railway completes beam setting of 1st cross-Mekong River bridge – [23/04/20]
“All the beams of the Luang Prabang cross-Mekong River super major bridge of the China-Laos railway have been installed, according to the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd. (LCRC)”.
Construction of 1st communication tower of China-Laos railway completed – [20/04/20]
“The construction of a 40-meter four-pipe communication tower of the China-Laos railway Vientiane station was completed on the outskirts of the Lao capital on Monday, marking major progress in the railway communication signal project.”
Coronavirus delays construction on Lao-China railway – [07/04/20]
China – Laos railway project reaches key milestone – [27/03/20]
“Tracklaying has commenced on the Laotian section of the China – Laos railway as the project enters its final stages.”
Nearly 80% of China-Laos railway project completed – [23/09/19]
Can the China–Laos railway keep on track? – [12/07/19]
“Of all the railway projects that Chinese companies are constructing in Southeast Asia, the China–Laos railway has proceeded most rapidly. Construction began in December 2016 and swung into full gear by mid-2017, involving six Chinese contractors from subsidiaries of the state-owned China Railway Group.”
New law promotes railway development in the Lao PDR – [10/05/19]
Employ more Lao to help build railway: President – [08/04/19]
“President Bounnhang Vorachit called for more Lao workers to be employed by the Laos-China Railway Project when he visited a section of the railway under construction in Vientiane”.
Gallery: The China-built railway cutting through Laos – [08/02/19]
“Surya Chuen follows the emerging railway from Boten in the mountainous north all the way south to Vientiane.”
Rail line through Laos ready in 2021 – [21/09/18]
“A high-speed rail line linking China’s Yunnan province with the Lao capital Vientiane should open in 2021 as officials confirm 40% of the work has already been completed.”
Chinese tourist ‘invasion’ feared as high-speed Laos-China Railway will boost visitor numbers dramatically – [24/08/18]
“Chinese nationals already make up about 11 per cent of visitors to Laos. When the railway is finished, that figure is expected to rise dramatically, bringing challenges and opportunities for the country.”
Main construction work of longest bridge along China-Laos railway completed – [16/06/18]
“Nam Khone super major bridge in Vientiane, Laos. China Railway No. 2 Engineering Group (CREC-2) has completed the main construction work of the longest bridge along the China-Laos railway which is also the longest-ever bridge in Laos. (Xinhua/Qin Xiaoming).”
[Luang Prabang station construction site (03/06/18).]
China’s Belt and Road rail project stirs discontent in Laos – [15/03/18]
“Belated compensation for over 4,000 affected families involves opaque assessments.”
First tunnel bored on epic China-Laos railway – [15/12/17]
“Punching through clay and sandstone, contractors this week completed the first of many tunnels in mountainous Laos needed for the $5.8bn cross-country railway now being built there, financed by China.”
Laos merely a bystander as China pushes Belt and Road ambitions – [06/10/17]
“Costly China-led railway project offers questionable benefits to host.”
Chinese railway could put Laos on the tourist map – [22/08/17]
Land-locked Laos on track for controversial China rail link – [24/06/17]
“Work commences on long-planned railway project but broader benefits remain in question.”
China starts controversial Lao aril project – [08/03/17]
“Beijing hopes the track will form part of a larger transportation system, dubbed the Pan-Asian Railway, which one day may carry passengers and goods all the way from China to Singapore while critics say it will saddle Laos with crippling amounts of dept.”
Work on grand China-Laos railway kicks off, again – [06/01/17]
“The long-delayed $5.7bn project to build a railway from China through northern Laos officially began on 25 December, more than a year after the previous official groundbreaking ceremony.”
Construction starts on China – Laos railway – [28/12/16]
“Ceremonies were held in the northern city of Luang Prabang on December 25 to mark the launch of construction of the 414·3 km rail link from the Chinese border to Vientiane.”
Contracts awarded for China – Laos railway – [15/09/16]
“China Railway Group (CRG) announced on September 8 that three of its subsidiaries have been awarded contracts with a total value of Yuan 8.1bn ($US 1.2bn) by Laos-China Railway Company to build three sections of a 414km standard-gauge line running south from China-Laos border at Boten to Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and the Laotian capital Vientiane.”
Laos And China come to terms on loan interest rate for railway project – [04/01/16]
“Laos and China have reached an agreement on the interest rate for a U.S. $480 million loan to build the high-speed Lao-China railway, according to the Lao government official in charge of the multibillion-dollar project, although the figure has not been publicly disclosed.”
China, Laos to build $6 billion railway by 2020 – [16/11/15]
“China aims to complete the long-awaited construction of a multibillion-dollar, high-speed rail project from southwestern China to Laos by 2020 as part of Beijing’s efforts to link itself to Southeast Asian markets, official sources confirmed over the weekend.”
China, Laos sign railway deal – [14/11/15]
Laos is on track with high-speed railway project – [17/07/15]
“Laos is on track with high-speed railway project: government’s decision to build the US$7 billion high-speed railway project, linking Vientiane to the Lao-China border in Luang Namtha province has not changed.”
China gives new pledge on Lao rail project – [06/10/14]
“China has given a new pledge to cash-starved Laos for the launch of a controversial railway project linking the two countries, although Lao officials say “many problems” must be ironed out, including financing.”
China’s 120mph railway arriving in Laos – [14/01/14]
“China’s mammoth engineering project to construct a railway from southwest China’s Yunnan Province all the way to Singapore is set to transform rural Laos.”
Funding for Laos-China rail link hinges on Thai project – [17/07/13]
“Chinese authorities are waiting for Thailand to confirm that it will proceed with a high-speed rail project linking neighboring Laos before Beijing finalizes a loan for Laos to build an ambitious rail link with China, according to a Chinese diplomat. Thailand plans to build a 625-kilometer (388-mile) rail line between Bangkok and Thailand’s northeastern province of Nong Khai along the border with Laos.”
Laos may bear cost of planned Chinese railroad – [02/01/13]
Ambitious rail plan opposed – [26/10/12]
“At least nine Lao MPs are against the Laos-China high-speed rail network.”
Laos says China to finance rail link – [24/10/12]
“A Laotian official said China has agreed to finance a $7 billion railway link in Laos that will ship raw materials to the Chinese border. There was no confirmation of the agreement from Chinese officials. The two countries have failed to reach a deal on the railway link for several years.”
Laos to go it alone – [19/10/12]
“The Laos-China rail project will go full steam ahead despite China’s withdrawal from the venture.”
High-speed railway delay – [24/06/11]
“Construction of a Chinese-built high-speed railway in Laos has been put off at the last minute due to a contract dispute and an incomplete project assessment, according to an official from the country’s Public Works Bureau.”
7 billion dollars Laos-China high speed railway – [15/01/20]
“The construction of the 421km High-speed railway from the Laos-China border to Vientiane will begin as planned. Laos and China agreed that construction of the railway would begin in April 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of Laos-China diplomatic relations and be completed within four years.”
Laos-China railroad set for launch – [21/10/10]
“Laos is set to launch work on a key railway line to China that will help bolster the tiny Southeast Asian state’s underdeveloped infrastructure, but mainly benefit its giant neighbor.”