Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thai - Lao Friendship Bridge - Lao's lifeline to the World

The First Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge (Thai: สะพานมิตรภาพ ไทย-ลาว แห่งที่ 1, Lao: ຂົວມິດຕະພາບ ລາວ-ໄທ ແຫ່ງທຳອິດ, is connecting Nong Khai in Thailand with Vientiane in Laos. The bridge over the Mekong River has a length of 1'170 meters. The bridge has two road lanes each 3.5 meters wide, two 1.5 meters wide footpaths and a single meter gauge railway line in the middle. The railway line was the latest addition in 2009 and connects Thanaleang station in Laos with the Royal Thai Northeastern Railways network.

In November 2010 plans to extend the service from Thanalaeng to Vientiane were abandoned. A new high-speed rail link from China to Thailand through Laos would make the extension redundant.

The Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge was first opened on April 8, 1994. The bridge was the first of four bridges over the Mekong River and connecting Laos and Thailand.
The Second bridge is connecting Mukdahan with the Lao town of Savannkhet, while the third one will connect the Thai city of Nakhon Phanom with Thakhek in Laos upon completion. The fourth bridge is in planning stage and will connect Ban Hoei Xai with Chiang Khong in Thailand's Chiang Rai province.

The whole construction costs for the first Friendship Bridge was about US$30 million and funded by the Australian government.

The traffic on the bridge drives on the left hand side as in Thailand. However traffic in Laos drives on the right. Therefore a traffic change over is needed on the Lao end.

A regular shuttle bus service operates across the bridge, between the Lao and Thai border posts. A ticket costs 15 Thai Bath or 4'000 Kip.

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