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Mekong rail system moves closer


Published on Aug 23, 2010

Asian ministers back ADB plan...

A railway system connecting more than 300 million people across Southeast Asia and southern China has moved a step closer, with the ratification of an Asian Development Bank (ADB) plan by ministers from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. According to reports, the ADB’s 25-page plan cites four possible ways of connecting the region, with the emphasis on one key strategic route stretching from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Hanoi, and on to the south China cities of Nanning and Kunming. While this route largely uses existing lines or those already under construction, the report does highlight the need for a new stretch of track linking the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh with HCMC. The ABD estimates the cost of this stretch of track to be in the region of US$1.1 billion. An extra US$7 billion will be needed to upgrade existing lines, the report said.

Currently, only China and Vietnam have connecting railway networks. The rail links between Thailand and Cambodia need considerable work, and while a rail line was recently opened crossing the ‘Friendship Bridge’ from Thailand into Laos, the landlocked nation has no internal rail network. The end objective is to have a series of inter-connecting rail links that would, in theory, enable passengers to travel by rail from Singapore, up through the Malay Peninsula, Indochina, and into China. From Beijing passengers could even board the trans-Siberian railway to Europe. By 2025, an estimated 3.2 million passengers could take the route each year, the report said, although it calls for at least one regional link to be operational by 2020.

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