Vientiane–Boten Railway (often referred to as the China-Laos Railway) is a 414 kilometres (257 mi) 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge railway under construction in northern Laos, between the capital Vientiane and the small town of Boten on the border with China.
In the north the line is connected to the Chinese rail system in Mohan, linking it to Kunming via the Yuxi–Mohan railway and Kunming-Yuxi railway. In the south it meets the existing metre-gauge railway in Thanaleng, linking it via Nhong Khai in Thailand to Bangkok. A high-speed, standard gauge extension to Bangkok is also under construction. When finished, the Vientiane–Boten railway will from an important part of the Kunming–Singapore railway.
The railway will be majority-owned by China, financed by Chinese funds, and built by China Railway Group.
Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, which hinders trade of goods. A railway link through Laos would greatly reduce cargo transit times and transportation costs between Laos and China. The railway would also be a link in the Kunming–Singapore railway network, as well as a program within the One Belt One Road Initiative.
The first talks about the railway linking Laos and China were in 2001, Laotian and Chinese politicians both confirmed the plans in 2009. After the corruption scandal of China’s minister of railways Liu Zhijun, the start of construction was delayed until early 2016.
Construction began at Luang Prabang on December 25, 2016. At the end of 2017, the construction phase was 20% completed, and in September 2019 progress was reported as 80% completed.
The cost of the project is estimated at 5.95 billion US dollars, to be financed 12% by Laos directly, 28% by China, with the remaining 60% being financed by loans.
47% of the railway will be in tunnels and 15% will pass over viaducts, spread over 75 tunnels and 167 bridges. There are 32 planned stations along the route. The final station would be Thanaleng railway station, not Vientiane Station (under construction). Full construction details superimposed on a satellite map can be seen at Design for Conservation (slow website).
The railway is to be built to China’s GB Grade 1 standard (suitable for 160 km/h passenger and 120 km/h freight trains).
A new bridge will be constructed by 2023 from Thanaleng to Nong khai to connect the high speed rail network into Thailand.