China-Laos Railway puts commerce on fast track
Workers load goods on a China-Laos Railway freight train going from Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, to Vientiane, Laos, on Jan 25. (Photo by HU GUOLIN/FOR CHINA DAILY)

The China-Laos Railway, a landmark project of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, has boosted regional connectivity and economic ties since it started operations three months ago.

As of March 3, the railway has handled more than 350 international freight trains, which transported over 250,000 metric tons of cargo, according to the China Railway Kunming Group Co Ltd.

Driven by increasing demand for transportation, the types of goods have expanded from fertilizers, fodder and vegetables at the beginning to electronic products, monocrystalline silicon, daily necessities and communication equipment, said Xu Chao, deputy general manager of the Kunming branch of China United International Rail Containers Co Ltd.

In order to better serve train operations and improve efficiency, local authorities have coordinated efforts between COVID-19 control and transportation services and facilitated Customs clearance at ports.

“Our train service has become more diversified, from traditional international cargo trains to the Lancang-Mekong Express and cold chain trains,” Xu said, adding the Lancang-Mekong Express only takes 26 hours from Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province, to the Laotian capital of Vientiane.

Open to traffic on Dec 3, the China-Laos Railway runs over 1,000 kilometers. It is the first overseas railway jointly constructed and operated by the two countries.

International trade companies benefit from the railway. Laos is embracing modern logistics services, including road-rail combined transport and one-stop Customs clearance, improving the timeliness of cargo transport and largely reducing costs, said Wang Lijun, chairman of Haofeng International Transport Co Ltd, a Chinese joint venture in Laos for over a decade.

Wang said the development of the company is in the fast lane, with business growing rapidly.

“The China-Laos Railway saves us about 30 percent of logistics costs from Kunming to Vientiane. The rail transport is more punctual and can reduce damages to goods,” said Yang Jie of Shanghai Rencheng Supply Chain Management Co Ltd. “We are more confident to expand in the Southeast Asian market.”

Ma Yong, head of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies under the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, said, “The launch of the railway has not only promoted economic development along the route but also accelerated the construction of the China-Laos Economic Corridor and the community of a shared future between the two sides.”

As the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement entered into force in January, the destinations of international freight through the China-Laos Railway have expanded to more countries and regions, including Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia.