by Chanthaphaphone Mixayboua, Zhang Jianhua
VIENTIANE, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- The dream of the Lao people to transform the land-locked country into a land-linked hub in the region is coming true as the streamlined "China-standard" bullet train for the China-Laos railway arrived in Lao capital Vientiane on Saturday.
The electric multiple unit (EMU) train was officially delivered to the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd., a joint venture in charge of the railway's construction and operation, at a handover ceremony in the newly-built China-Laos Railway Vientiane Station with the attendance of Chinese Ambassador to Laos Jiang Zaidong and Lao Minister of Public Works and Transport Viengsavath Siphandone.
"I am so excited. It was a historic moment for the first passenger train traveling along the China-Laos Railway has arrived in Laos," Sangthong Hangponsawang, a 29-year-old man who is an online English tutor living in Vientiane, told Xinhua.
"I believe that the railway will benefit Laos a lot given its significant role in bolstering tourism and the transport of goods," said Sangthong, adding "Our country is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. The Belt and Road Initiative is a golden opportunity for our country to transform into a land-link hub in the region."
"Better roads and public services like the railway will attract more investment from overseas," he said.
Chinese Ambassador Jiang Zaidong said at the handover ceremony that Laos has received the first modern train in its history which is a decisive progress in the construction of the China-Laos railway, and it is also a landmark achievement of the strategic docking between the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Laos strategy to convert itself to a land-linked hub.
The construction of the railway started in December 2016 and is scheduled to be completed and operational in December.
According to the China State Railway Group, the new train, with the maximum operating speed of 160 km per hour, consists of nine carriages, including a locomotive, a dining coach, a first-class and six second-class coaches, and has altogether 720 seats. It will be put into a trial run soon.
The train is called Lane Xang as Laos was once called the Lane Xang (million elephants) Kingdom.
In addition, Lane Xang is also known as Lancang, the name of the upper section of Mekong River in China, which symbolizes the China-Laos relationship as good neighbors, good friends, good comrades and good partners.
"I have long been following news about the railway because I'm curious what it will be like having a modern train in our country and I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks like," said Lachan Suvanthung, 25, a female hotel receptionist in Vang Vieng, a tourism town near Vientiane.
She said the train helps reduce travel time between provinces, which is a great opportunity to bring more domestic tourists to different provinces and more international tourists to Laos.
"When it operates normally and the COVID-19 situation in our country improves significantly, I believe the railway will make local people's life easier and the tourism sector will also see strong growth in the future," she said.
The Chinese ambassador said that with the opening of the China-Laos Railway, the travel time from Vientiane to the China-Laos border will be shortened from two days to three hours, and it will just be an overnight trip to travel from Vientiane to Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, a leapfrog development in the connectivity between the two countries.
The train is painted with the colors of red, blue and white, the same colors of the flag of Laos. The interior design integrates elements of traditional Chinese and Lao cultures, embodying the Lao people's vision of a better life and the friendship between the two peoples.
Viengsavath Siphandone said the design and manufacture of the EMU train is an important part of the building of the Laos-China railway. Thongloun Sisoulith, general secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party Central Committee and Lao president, approved the design plan of the train while Lao Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh decided the name of the train.
The delivery of the train marks the beginning of the operation period of the railway. It also a declaration that Laos has stepped into a new era of railway transportation, said the Lao minister.
The arrival of the bullet train has also made the headlines on social media in Laos, with the public discussing the details of the train and expressing their excitement and pride.
A netizen named Khampha Bounmak said "My life would become much more convenient when the Laos-China railway starts operation. Warmly and friendly welcome to Lao Capital Vientiane!"
"It's like a dream come true. It was unbelievable and I feel so happy," Phouvieng Sysenkham wrote on Facebook.
A netizen named Bounlieng Tounthasith said, "I'm so excited that I will be able to take a train to China soon!"
"The Laos-China railway will bring great convenience to trade and travel between the two countries. Breaking through the blockade of the mountains and converting Laos from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub is the dream of the Lao people," Koularb Savanh wrote on Facebook. Enditem