Chinese High-Speed Rail Project Remains Unaffected by the Lockdowns
The development of Chinese high-speed rail line, which will transform China’s society and economy by linking its interior cities to other countries in lesser travel time, has largely been impacted by the ongoing global crisis. A notable slowdown in construction and financing has been noticed in other countries.
Over the past 15 years, the Chinese high-speed rail line has rapidly developed with constant funding from the Chinese government. The rail network now aims to reach 38,000 km in 2025. But can this really be made possible amid the global pandemic?
Throughout its been noticed that a huge number of travelers with different income levels often choose Chinese high-speed rail line for comfort, convenience, safety and punctuality purposes. It is also known as world’s longest high speed railway network and is the most extensively used one too. By the end of 2019, China’s HSR extended to 32(31) of the country’s 34(33) provincial-level administrative divisions.
Meanwhile, China’s high-speed rail line plans in Laos appears to have been the least impacted amid the coronavirus pandemic. The China-Laos Railway called the Vientiane–Boten Railway is under construction since March. The 414 kilometres standard gauge railway is under construction in northern Laos, between the capital Vientiane and the small town of Boten on the border with China. Once the construction is over, the Vientiane–Boten railway will form an important part of the Kunming–Singapore railway.
A report stated that as a part of Chinese high-speed rail line project, the country aims to build a 5,500-km Trans-Asia Railway, beginning from Kunming and travelling through Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia, before ending in Singapore. This will also help people in remote/landlocked regions tap into some of Southeast Asia’s largest economies, boosting both trade and tourism.
Chinese high-speed rail line project is considered an important part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. The planned route is definitely hitting the capitals of Laos, Thailand and Malaysia before reaching Singapore, increasing China’s regional and economic influence in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, Laos is actively supporting Chinese high-speed rail network project in hopes to transform from landlocked to a land-linked country and gain through new businesses. The rail project, if built, will turn a three-day journey from Boten to Vientiane, to a three-hour ride. A report stated that Laos faces the highest debt risk of some 45 percent to China.
The critics believe that China is using the debts as a reason forcing Laos to do its work at a regional level since the latter is totally dependent on China. However, the rail route running through Laos if fails to extend will be of little use to China. Considering the cost concern objectives, Thailand and Malaysia are both cautious and proving to be more practical about Chinese high-speed rail project. Meanwhile, China is hopeful that its project would help in recovering the incurred economic losses post-pandemic.
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