The study of the 550km-long rail line is set to take about two years to complete, scheduled from December 2015 to December 2017, according to Viet Nam News.

The study is being conducted with a US$3 million grant from Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), with the aim of preparing a master plan and providing capacity building to the railway sectors of the two countries.

The Lao official has confirmed that the study began a few months ago, adding that Lao officials in charge of the project held meetings with KOICA’s experts yesterday in Vientiane to discuss related works.

"We are scheduled to meet with Vietnamese officials today," he said.

The project’s section in Laos will be about 450 km long, while the section in Vietnam was reported to be about 119 km long.

The Vientiane-Thakhaek-Muya rail project is technically known as the A3 rail project. If realised, it will connect Laos to Vung Ang seaport in central Ha Tinh province of Vietnam. It will also be an important link within Asean, the 10-member regional bloc.

Currently, the Lao and Chinese governments are developing the Kunming-Singapore rail network, whose section in Laos from Vientiane to the Chinese border is being developed following the groundbreaking ceremony that took place on December 2, 2015 in Vientiane, according to the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

The Kunming-Singapore rail network will link China to Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

With the Lao government having set an ambitious plan to develop four railways in total, the Vientiane-Thakhaek-Muya rail project will link the Kunming-Singapore rail network in Vientiane southward to other two railways, which are planned - the Savan-Lao Bao rail project and the Vientiane-Pakxe-Chongmek rail project. In 2012, the Lao government signed an agreement with a Malaysian investor, Giant Rail Company Limited, to develop the Savan-Lao Bao rail project linking central Savannakhet province of Laos with the Laos-Vietnam Dansavan-Lao Bao border gate over a distance of about 220km in length. This project is still in the preparation stage for construction.

In addition, an initial survey was completed on the Vientiane-Pakxe-Chongmek project some 452 km in length connecting Vangtao-Chongmek Lao-Thai border checkpoint in the southern province of Champassak with the Savan-Lao Bao railway project and the Vientiane-Thakhaek-Muya rail project as well as the Vientiane-Boten project.

Vientiane Times - February 25, 2016