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Cable Car Project Faces Feasibility Challenges; One-Stop Border Post Recommended for Smoother Thailand-Lao PDR Crossings

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ADB-CDIA recently concluded its project preparation study (PPS) for the cable car project, aimed at easing border crossings between Nong Khai in Thailand and Vientiane in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).

Despite finding significant implementation challenges in the project, the ADB-CDIA study put forward a one-stop border post (OSBP) model that will integrate the exit and entry controls under one country, thereby enhancing border efficiency.

Northeastern Thailand and Lao PDR have become fast-growing tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. However, transport connectivity, particularly cross-border crossings, lengthy immigration procedures, and complicated security checks remain key problems.

With the increasing number of tourists and commuters traversing both countries, the cable car project emerged as one of the solutions considered by stakeholders in a visioning exercise. The two governments subsequently requested ADB-CDIA’s support to conduct a PPS encompassing pre-feasibility study and preliminary design for the project.

Through the PPS, ADB-CDIA evaluated five distinct cable car route options. However, each option presented daunting challenges in terms of their feasibility, particularly regarding land acquisition for the stations. The PPS further indicated that alternative transport modes more tailored to the local context offered compelling advantages than cable cars, such as cost-effectiveness, environmental impact, and transportation efficiency.

The demand analysis further revealed the sensitivity of the proposed cable car to pricing dynamics, posing a substantial obstacle to maintaining competitiveness against bus and train fares. Finally, exploring potential scenarios for achieving financial and economic viability and attracting private investment painted a bleak picture, with all proposed strategies to attain profitability appearing challenging to realize within the current context.

Considering these findings, ADB-CDIA advised the governments of Nong Khai and Vientiane to prioritize the implementation of OSBP as part of a comprehensive overhaul of procedures and infrastructure to streamline operations toward time-saving and improved user experience at the border.

Under the recommended juxtaposed OSBP, the exit and entry controls will be carried out in the same country requiring only one stop. The country of exit conducts its controls first, followed by the country of destination. Exit formalities must be fully completed before the country of destination commences its controls. This scheme streamlines border crossing and enhances the traveler’s experience. OSBP can also promote a coordinated approach to facilitate both trade and the movement of people. Furthermore, the increase in information exchange and intelligence sharing can help strengthen the security of the adjoining countries.

Despite emerging as the most apt solution to facilitate border crossings between Nong Khai and Vientiane, the successful implementation of OSBP relies heavily on the establishment of robust bilateral agreements, close institutional collaboration between bordering nations, and the meticulous harmonization of systems and regulations.

Related Link: Vientiane-Nong Khai Cross-border Cable Car

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