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Research Staff Report

Transforming Laos through a high-speed railway to China

― A landlocked country is set to become a “world-linked” country

Yasumasa SHIMIZU
  Principal Economist


 Laos is a small country in Southeast Asia that has lagged its neighbors in terms of economic development. Not only is the population small, at 7.3 million, but the country is surrounded by mountains and is the only country in Southeast Asia without access to the sea. Although it faces the typical challenges associated with being a landlock country, its situation is changing. The catalyst for that change the growth of high-speed railways in the region.……


  1. Since the completion of the Laos-China Railway in December 2021, the line has served more than 1.5 million passengers in Laos as of January.
  2. The Laotian government plans to construct another line to the Vietnamese port of Vung Ang, which Laos has the right to use, as early 2025.
  3. Laos’ economy is expected to expand, with tourism and exports leading the way, but a small internal market and industrial base require it to seek other sources of growth.
  4. The development of a “Pan-Asian” railway connecting to Thailand and Singapore is expected to benefit Laos economically, but the plan has been hampered by delays.