WORK to link Laos to Thailand's rail network officially began on January 19, when Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh and Thai Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula attended a ground-breaking ceremony in Dongphosy.

This will be the site of the future Tha Naleng passenger and freight rail terminal, close to the Laos end of the Friendship Bridge between the countries. The 3·5 km line from the bridge over the Mekong is being built at a cost of 197m baht, funded through a 70% loan and 30% grant from the Thai government. A contract was signed with Sermsanguan Construction Co in September 2006, and work is expected to be completed by April 18 2008. The Friendship Bridge was opened in April 1994 and carries an unused metre-gauge single track from the State Railway of Thailand terminus at Nong Khai.

Kiyonori Tezuka, President of Japanese firm Tezuka Rolling Stock Industry Co, announced plans to purchase locos and rolling stock on behalf of the Laos government.

Deputy Head of the Laos Railway Authority, Sonesack N Ngansana, said the government is to undertake surveys for a 12 km extension to Sok Kham in the suburbs of Vientiane. A route onwards to Vietnam as part of the Trans-Asean project is also to be evaluated.