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China-Laos train successful

By LUO WANGSHU | | Updated: 2024-04-14 20:09
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Staff members perform on the inaugural train from Xishuangbanna, China to Luang Prabang, Laos on April 13, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

The China-Laos Railway handled 700,000 passenger trips last year, further boosting tourism development, China State Railway Group said.

About 180,000 of the trips were made by passengers from 87 countries and regions who crossed the border on the railway, the company said on Saturday, which marked the first anniversary of the international service. The other trips were made within Laos or China.

Throughout the year, all international trains operated in a safe, smooth and orderly fashion, the company said. They all departed on time, and their on-time arrival rate was 99 percent.

International passenger train services between Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province, and Vientiane, capital of Laos, began on April 13 last year. The high-speed rail service has cut train travel time between the two cities to less than 10 hours.

The China-Laos Railway's international passenger trains connect tourism destinations such as Kunming and Xishuangbanna in Yunnan, and Luang Prabang and Vientiane in Laos. The service has played a major role in facilitating international tourist travel to cultural relic sites and natural scenic areas along the route, the company said.

"It has become a new trend to take the high-speed train to tour Laos and Yunnan," it said.

Some local railway departments, in cooperation with travel agencies, have developed tourism train services. Travelers can take the trains and visit some Chinese cities before transferring to the China-Laos Railway to visit sites in Laos.

Over the year, tourism trains have departed from cities such as Beijing, Harbin in Heilongjiang province and Shenyang in Liaoning province.

The China-Laos Railway's cross-border service has sparked a tourism boom in cities such as Xishuangbanna and Luang Prabang, igniting new consumer momentum and driving cultural exchanges and economic cooperation between the two nations, the company said.

Ren Geng, a Chongqing native who spent seven years in Xishuangbanna in the 1970s, revisited the region in January with some friends who also spent their youth there.

They wanted to revisit Xishuangbanna after retirement, looking for rekindle some cherished memories. This winter, they also decided to take the train to see Laos.

"I lived in a place that was less than about 10 kilometers from the Laotian border, but I never got the chance to visit the country," the 69 year-old said. "The train service is convenient and has made it popular to visit Laos."

Ren said the scenery Laotian cities such as Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng was breathtaking.

Vannaphone Khamphilom, a Lao student who studies in Kunming, said the opening of the international passenger service has boosted business for her mother, who owns a travel agency.

"The train is always busy. Since the international train service opened, I stopped taking the plane," she said. "On the train, I can talk to different people, Lao and Chinese."

She said such trips were not only a great opportunity to meet new people, but also provided a convenient way to gather information for her mother's company and understand clients' needs on the train.

Wang Lijuan, general manager of Kunming Merry International Travel Service, said: "Since the opening of the international service, travelers, particularly from northern Thailand, can take the railway to China. In the past, they had to travel to Bangkok to make a transfer before taking the plane to China."

Wang's company mainly works with foreigners who want to travel to China.

Over the year, travel facilitators such as railway and customs departments have focused on improving service quality, making great contributions to tourism development by means such as offering more services, reducing travel times and adding more seats on cross-border trains.

An additional cross-border train began operations between Xishuangbanna and Luang Prabang on Saturday.

At the beginning of the new service's operation, four round trips will be scheduled four days a week, on Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The trip between Xishuangbanna and Luang Prabang takes about five hours.

The round-trip service between Kunming and Vientiane is offered daily.

At the beginning of the international service last year, the trip from Kunming to Vientiane took 10 hours and 30 minutes. It has been cut to 9 hours and 26 minutes since July 25.

The train also added 50 seats — for a total of 350 — this year for travelers between Kunming and Vientiane.

The 1,035-kilometer China-Laos Railway, a landmark project of the Belt and Road Initiative, began operation in December 2021. It has turned Laos from a landlocked country into a land-linked hub on the Indochina Peninsula.

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