Trans-Asia Railway will run through Vietnam

Ha Noi, Oct. 14 (VNA) -- ASEAN transport ministers have given the green light to a USD 2.5 billion rail link running through Viet Nam and Cambodia. The rail link, the Trans-Asia Railway Project, will link seven ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries with China.

"The Singapore-Kunming Rail Link, when completed, will help boost trade and tourism between Viet Nam and other ASEAN countries," Viet Nam News Agency's English-language daily Viet Nam News quotes Dang Thi Hoc, deputy chief of Viet Nam's Transport Ministry's international relations department, as saying.

The transport ministers, meeting in Brunei, approved a feasibility study that calls for a 5,500 km link through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Kunming in China.

Two feeders to the main route will link Vung Ang in central Viet Nam with Vientiane in Laos and Bangkok in Thailand with Yangon in Myanmar.

The rail link, first proposed at the fifth ASEAN Summit in 1995, will cost an estimated USD 2.5 billion.

The Bangkok-Yangon branch and the main section of the project which runs through Cambodia and Viet Nam will share a USD 1.4 billion investment. The Vientiane-Vung Ang feeder link will receive USD 1.1 billion.

The transport ministers will present the results of the feasibility study at the ASEAN Mekong Basin Development meeting to be held later this month in Malaysia and at the next ASEAN summit, where approval is expected.

Loan negotiations with the Asian Development Bank, the major capital provider of the project, will follow with other funds provided by ASEAN members.

The rail link was proposed by the ASEAN Mekong Basin Development Co-operation whose organizational framework was approved in June 1996 and later endorsed by ASEAN heads of government at their first informal summit in November 1996.

Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are already linked by rail, as are Viet Nam and China. Thailand and Laos plan to build a railway connecting Thailand's northeastern province of Nong Khai with the Lao capital of Vientiane.