The longest tunnel on the China-Laos railway was drilled through on weekend, marking new progress in the construction of the railway expected to open at the end of next year.

The 17.5-km-long Anding Tunnel, at the boundary area of Yuanjiang and Mojiang counties in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, is a first-class high-risk tunnel with unfavourable geology such as faults, harmful gas, karst, and soft rock, according to sources with the China Railway Kunming Group Co. Ltd.

Up to now, the Yuxi-Mohan section of the railway, which links Kunming, capital of Yunnan, and Vientiane, capital of Laos, has completed a total investment of 11 billion yuan (1.67 billion U.S. dollars) this year and 47.35 billion yuan since the start of construction. With the Anding Tunnel drilled through, workers have completed 98.8 per cent of the tunnel projects on this Chinese section.

Using China’s technical standards and equipment, the railway, which stretches more than 1,000 kilometers, is scheduled to be completed and opened to traffic at the end of 2021.

The railway is a strategic docking project between the Belt & Road Initiative and Laos’ strategy to transform from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub. The railway will slash the travel time between Kunming and Vientiane to half a day.