The Lao and Vietnamese governments are considering the feasibility of building an expressway linking Vientiane to Hanoi, with assistance from the government of Japan.

According to the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s Department of Roads, the ministry has been working on the Vientiane-Hanoi Expressway project in collaboration with Vietnam’s Ministry of Communications and Transport, with two routes currently being considered.

The first route would run through Vientiane-Pakxan-Viengthong-Thanh Thuy-Hanoi over a distance of 725km, of which 355km would be in Laos. The estimated cost would be $5.23 billion.

The second route would follow a path through Vientiane-Naphaeng-Xaysomboun-Xieng Khuang-Tha Lao (Huaphan province)-Hanoi, over a distance of 730km, of which 485km would be in Laos. The estimated cost of this route would be about $9.27 billion.

The Lao and Vietnamese governments believe the first option is the better route and approved the technical guidelines and survey costs for a Pre-Feasibility Study report of the project under Decision No 20921 dated October 2, 2017.

They also requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to seek assistance from the government of Japan to conduct a preliminary feasibility study of the project.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) conducted a survey, which gave a number of recommendations.

In addition to the Vientiane-Pakxan-Viengthong-Thanh Thuy route studied by Vietnam, there is also a possible new route parallel to Road 13 South from Vientiane to Viengkham village (at the junction of this road at kilometre 20), from which it would be possible to turn left parallel to National Road No 8 and on to the Laos-Vietnam border.

Jica suggested this would be a better route and the two countries’ transport ministries are continuing with their assessment to coordinate with the Japanese and request assistance in construction studies.

When the expressway is built, it will be another step in transforming Laos from being landlocked to a land link within the region.

In the south, construction of the Vientiane-Pakse Expressway will go ahead after the government gives the green light to the proposed route and after feasibility studies on all sections have taken place.

This road will consist of five sections and will run parallel to Road No 13 South.

The first section will run for 126km from Nongpaen (450 Road) in Vientiane to Pakxan district in Borikhamxay province.

The expressway will link up with the planned Vientiane-Hanoi expressway, to create a direct connection between the Lao and Vietnamese capitals.

The government has also approved the construction of an expressway between Bokeo province and Boten, which would link China and Thailand through Laos.

A survey of the route through Bokeo is now taking place and the possible impacts of the project are being assessed.

The Bokeo-Boten Expressway has been approved by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. It will run from Boten at the Laos-China border in Luang Namtha province to the Lao-Thai border in Huayxai district, Bokeo province.

Construction of the 176.3km expressway is expected to cost $3.8 billion.