Poor basic infrastructure that impeded economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) underpinned the preparation of the Northern Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Transport Network Improvement Project. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), which is pivotal to the GMS transport corridors linking northern Thailand, northern Viet Nam, and the southern provinces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), was to be connected via its northern provinces through improved routes and better infrastructure.
The project was part of the high priority Northeastern Corridor identified in the 2004 GMS Transport Sector Strategy Study. It was approved by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in September 2007 for a grant of $27 million to the Lao PDR government. With cofinancing from the Australian and Korean governments and the OPEF Fund for International Development and another $27 million in supplementary grant approved by ADB in March 2010 to cover cost escalation, its envisaged impact was increased trade and economic growth in the region. Its expected outcome was more efficient regional and national road networks, to be achieved through six components: i) physical upgrade of Route 4 and rural access roads; (ii) procurement of axle load control equipment; (iii) consulting services for construction supervision and detailed designs; (iv) national road network periodic road maintenance; (v) road safety improvement; and (vi) HIV and human trafficking risk reduction.
At completion, the project’s planned outputs were largely achieved. 367.5 km of double bituminous surface treatment two-lane pavement and a 620-meter (m) bridge over the Mekong River were completed along Route 4, which was likewise improved to the national road standard of a typical 9 m-wide formation in flat and rolling terrain, 7 m in mountainous terrain, and 10 m in urban and district centers. Several bridges and culverts were replaced or repaired, and drainage works were also undertaken.
Some 67.3 km of single bituminous surface treatment and 19.4 km of levelled gravel surface rural access roads were completed. By project completion review (PCR), two mobile scales and a permanent weighing station, enforcing axle load control, were operational at the Kenthao border post. A road safety training was conducted in six provinces, and a driver testing manual was prepared in accordance with National Road Safety Committee parameters. HIV and human trafficking awareness workshops were held for border police officers, local secondary schools, sex workers, and government and village representatives.
Substantial delivery of the planned outputs enabled the project to achieve its intended outcome. Roads built were of lower maintenance requirements, making them more sustainable. Improved pavement standards had reduced travel time on Route 4 from 8 hours in 2007 to 4 hours by May 2014, resulting in savings in vehicle operating costs. Traffic had consequently increased, averaging 20% annually in 2008−2013.
Lao PDR’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) was the executing agency, and the MPWT’s Department of Roads, the implementing agency.