Border trade and tourism between the capital city of Vientiane and Nong Khai Province is high and showed continual growth before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to a surplus in border trade at Nong Khai – Vientiane Customs, as this is adjacent to Vientiane, the major economic city of Lao PDR, and further grew as a result of the opening of the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge between Lao PDR and Thailand in 1994.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an interruption in trade and transportation. With the arrival of the Kunming-Vientiane rail line in December 2021, the Vientiane – Nong Khai Metropolitan Region offers rapidly accelerating transport opportunities and is expected to lead to greater trade and tourism between the Lao capital and Nong Khai Province.
With this in mind, the Sustainable Design of Urban mobility in Medium-Sized Metropolitan Regions (SMMR) project has worked with authorities and stakeholders in ASEAN to envision this new era in cross-border transport development between Lao PDR and Thailand. The SMMR emphasizes the development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) and Metropolitan Transport Executives (MTE).
In addition, the SMMR project provides technical assistance, project coordination, joint planning and development, as well as transport agreements. One of the innovative solutions arising from the continuous border-crossing meetings and discussions is a cable car project over the Mekong River, which is regarded as an attractive cross-border and intermodal connection to link the passenger transport services with public transport systems, while enhancing the capacity for freight traffic over the existing Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
In the early stage, SMMR project is cooperating with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) in formulating a project preparation study (PPS) for the Vientiane-Nong Khai Cross-border Cable Car Project. The PPS will conduct a feasibility study and preliminary design to be linked to various existing/planned transport services and networks in Thailand and Lao PDR, which can be co-created and implemented via public-private partnership mechanisms. The key objective is to come up with alternative and sustainable cross-border connectivity in order to facilitate the movement of people during the COVID-19 recovery.
The SMMR project and CDIA expect that the Vientiane-Nong Khai border cable car project will help stimulate the economy by crafting inclusive and sustainable mobility, creating an intermodal transport hub, and utilizing an environmentally friendly transport mode.
The actual PPS is expected to commence in January 2022 and will run for a period of nine months. The Project Steering Committee is made up of representatives from Lao PDR’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport – Department of Transport and Vientiane and Thailand’s Ministry of Transport – Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning and Nong Khai Province.
“The shared vision is to facilitate cooperation and integration not only between Lao PDR and Thailand, but eventually in other counties in Southeast Asia,” said Chee Anne Roño, CDIA’s Urban Development Specialist in charge of the PPS. In collaboration with ASEAN, the SMMR project is expanding opportunities for improving regional cooperation for cross-border trade and transport connectivity as well as governance mechanisms throughout the MTE and SUMP frameworks.
About the SMMR Project
The Sustainable Design of Urban mobility in Medium-Sized Metropolitan Regions (SMMR) project is the ASEAN-German cooperation project which supports three metropolitan regions across Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR and Thailand in planning and application of integrated ‘Avoid-Shift-Improve’ (ASI) principles and measures for sustainable development of urban mobility. In Phase 2, the project is commissioned by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with funding of EUR 3,500,000 (approx.130 million baht), implemented together with the ASEAN Land Transport Working Group (LTWG) and partners in Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR and Thailand. The SMMR Phase 2 runs for 3 years from November 2021 to October 2024.