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Yuxi-Mengzi railroad to be operational this year

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Yunnan may lack a comprehensive rail network today, but that should change drastically in the coming years, putting Kunming at the center of a web of provincial, regional and international rail links.

Provincewide there are currently 14 rail projects in various stages of construction. One of the first of these projects to be completed will be a key line linking the city of Yuxi (玉溪), 90 kilometers south of Kunming, with Mengzi (蒙自), in southern Yunnan's Honghe Hani Autonomous Prefecture.

Last weekend Kunming Rail Bureau officials told reporters that the Yuxi-Mengzi railroad (玉蒙铁路) will be operational before the end of 2012.

Construction of the 141-kilometer, 4.5 billion yuan (US$712 million) line began in December 2005. Earlier this month the line's 10-kilometer Xiushan Tunnel was completed, after six years of work by more than 1,000 people.

Kunmingers anxious to take a train directly to Mengzi for a bowl of its famous across the bridge noodles will have to wait — the old Kunming-Yuxi railroad (昆玉铁路) is currently being renovated, which means a bus trip from Kunming to Yuxi will have to precede the train ride.

Mengzi was a stop on the French-built railway that once linked Kunming with the Vietnamese seaport of Hai Phong
Mengzi was a stop on the French-built railway that once linked Kunming with the Vietnamese seaport of Hai Phong

The completion of the Yuxi-Mengzi railroad is key to Kunming's proposed rail link with Vietnam. Upon completion of the Kunming-Yuxi railroad and Mengzi-Hekou railroad (蒙河铁路) next year, passengers will be able to take a train from Kunming to Hekou (河口), on the border with Vietnam.

It is hoped that one day the rail line from Kunming to Hekou will be the northern end of the eastern trunk line of the Pan-Asian Railway (泛亚铁路) which will continue on through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia to its southern terminus in Singapore.

In addition to the eastern trunk line, the international rail network, whose projected completion date is up in the air, will have central and western trunk lines, all connecting Kunming with Singapore.

The central line of the Pan-Asian Railway will essentially shoot straight south from Kunming and will be composed of a Kunming-Yuxi-Jinghong line that continues on toward Mohan, Laos, before heading down Thailand to Malaysia and Singapore. There will also be a line branching off at Jinghong and running through Daluo (打落) on to Mandalay, Myanmar.

The Pan-Asian Railway's west line will head westward from Kunming to Dali and through Baoshan on to the border town of Ruili. There is also a planned branch line splitting off from Baoshan and passing through Tengchong (腾冲) to the city of Myitkyina in Myanmar.

In addition to the planned links with Southeast Asia, Kunming will also eventually have rail access to Lhasa via an extension of the Kunming-Lijiang railroad through Shangri-La. High speed rail lines to Chengdu and Chongqing are also being constructed, as is a line to Shanghai that will reduce travel time from 37 hours to less than nine hours.

Old Mengzi Station image: Tang Lei

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Comments

This is an excellent and timely report! We hope the entire Trans-Asian Rail Network can be speeded up and completed quickly. However, it appears that only China is a true prime mover behind the project. Thailand is taking some slow positive movement. Laos and Myanmar appear to be letting China take the lead and are contributing almost nothing. Cambodia and Vietnam seem to be doing absolutely nothing! There is much talk in various sectors, but little real action, except on the part of China. India should jump into the game and demonstrate real leadership in getting the rail network completed, instead of being frightened of their shadows. Cambodia and Vietnam should be working full speed ahead on the connection from Bangkok to Ho Chi Min City. Thailand, Myanmar and India should be working aggressively on their through connections from Bangkok to Kolkata and New Delhi.

The leadership in every Southeast and South Asian nation should realize that efficient rail transport is the safest, least polluting, most effective, cheapest, most comfortable and most logical way to transport both goods and people. Commerce and trade will employ millions more and raise the standard of living for multiplied millions. Easy and simple travel by rail will employ millions in the tourism industry. The Trans-Asian Rail Network is a true winner and a necessity. We need a sense of urgency in the matter among the political leadership of each involved nation.

I can't help but agree with EK Kadiddlehopper. An efficient regional rail network would be good for many of the people in China/SE Asia/South Asia who have yet to see the benefits of their respective countries' recent opening up.

i've just had the opportunity to observe firsthand the rail infrastructure in Vietnam and Cambodia (and in Laos, i guess, but there wasn't any observing to be done.) Vietnam still relies on its single-track Reunification Express line - all very politically charged when it opened, i'm sure, but completely not future proof. Cambodia is laying track, with a lot of freshly-laid bed visible, and stacks of ties ready for deployment, but not a great deal of on-the-ground activity. again, it's single track, and not exactly built for growth.

transport infrastructure construction in Laos is centred on the roads. the best section of road in the country is from the Chinese border to Oudomxai - and it was laid by the Chinese. the question is: at what cost? a friend told me China demands logging concessions as part of the construction deal. also, lacking tunnels and bridges, and one lane each way, it's again not future proof.

so, when are Pan-regional bodies such as the ADB and Asean going to really get their act together and come up with some proper cash for a thorough solution to the problem? the whole region is a powder keg of untapped economic potential that really only needs better transport infrastructure to light the fuse.

my cynical guess is that there's no political willpower and too much corruption to make it work optimally without a nation with deep pockets and questionable morals (in this case, China) showing up and telling SE Asia how it's going to be. cue more power for China, and continued vassal status for the likes of Laos and Cambodia.

The article mentions the planned central line going through "Mohan, Laos." I believe "Mohan" is actually the name of the border town on the Chinese side of the border (in Mengla county of Xishuangbanna/Sipsonpanna prefecture), whereas the Lao phoneticize the name of the town (village, really) on their side as Botan. Probably both are phoneticizing the same Taic (Lao/Tai Lue) word, but due to the syllable constraints of Chinese characters, the PRC town has received the Pinyin spelling of Mohan. (Was there last week, beautiful place.)

Anyone have any news on the status of this thing? Is it still opening this month as originally announced?

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