Passengers have taken 16 million trips on the China-Laos Railway since the line opened in December 2021, including more than 20,000 cross-border trips since such service began in mid-April, the China State Railway Group said.
Industry experts said the high-standard operation of the railway will continue to benefit the people of both countries as it boosts trade, economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.
They also said that smear campaigns against the railway – including claims on inaccessibility to local people and debt concerns – are unfounded and contrary to the facts.
Since its opening, the China section of the railway had carried 13.53 million passengers. The Laos section, meanwhile, handled 2.47 million passengers, according to a statement sent to the Global Times by China State Railway Group.
The accelerating pace of passenger use showed the line’s wide popularity, as some 8 million passenger trips were added in less than six months.
By its first anniversary in December 2022, the railway had carried 8.5 million passengers and 11.2 million tons of cargo, statistics showed.
Experts said the rapid development of the railway and its huge long-run potential have quashed claims over its so-called inaccessibility to local people and the debt issue, and such claims reflect a sour grapes sentiment by some in the West.
Sun Zhang, a railway expert from Shanghai Tongji University, said it is perfectly normal for a big infrastructure project like the railway, which is designed to be slightly ahead of the local economic development level, to take some time for people to get used to before showing its full potential.
“The development of China’s own high-speed system tells the same story,” Sun said, noting that eventually, people will embrace the railway. As for debt concerns, Sun said it is too soon to tell.
A Lao resident told the Global Times that the rail line is much cheaper than driving and fares are quite reasonable.
The 1,035-kilometer-long China-Laos Railway opened cross-border passenger service on April 13, 3023, cutting the time for the Kunming-Vientiane trip to 10.5 hours, shortening the distance between the two cities to less than a day. Kunming is the capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan Province.
To date, the cross-border service has transported more than 20,000 passengers from 28 countries and regions, China Railway Kunming Group in Yunnan under China State Railway Group said in a statement sent to the Global Times. The railway has boosted the flow of people, cargo and information, and promoted the high-quality development of the regional economy, it said.
Luang Prabang province in Laos, which is famous for its scenic attractions, is expecting to attract 1 million tourists this year, according to media reports. In the first 10 months of 2022, a total of 335,000 passengers arrived in the province using the railway.
The railway will gradually help bring more Chinese tourists to Laos, as convenient transportation plays a vital role in the country’s nascent tourism sector, Jia Jianqiang, CEO of Beijing-based online agency 6renyou, told the Global Times on Wednesday just after a field trip of Laos’ tourism market.
“The value of the railway should be seen over the long term, and I believe enhanced economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries will bring a tremendous lift to the Laotian economy and people’s living standards,” Jia said.
The China-Laos Railway is an epitome and good example of China-ASEAN cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative and regional economic integration, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry, said in April.