Road Network: axes and nodes     

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Road network and accessibility

Laos is a mountainous country where elevations of below 200 m account for only 16% of the total area. More than 20 years  after  reunification,  territorial  and  economic integration is seriously hampered by the difficulty of traveling within the country. Travel is particularly arduous during the wet season because of poorly constructed and poorly maintained roads.

Road 13, between Namtha on the Chinese border and Kinak on the Cambodian border, is the only meridian axis usable all year round, even though the section south of Savannakhet has not yet been paved. It links the capital Vientiane (population: 233,000) to Luangphrabang in the North (population: 31,800), and to Thakhek (population: 25,800), Savannakhet (population: 62,200) and Pakse (population: 47,600) in the South. It also services Namtha (population: 14,400) and Muong Xay (population: 15,000) in the North. It is connected to the Thai network by a bridge in Vientiane ; another bridge is under construction in Pakse.

The second main road. Road 1, runs east of Road 13 and parallel to it, across the Xiengkhuang Plateau, through the interior of the provinces of the Centre, the Sekong Valleyand Attapeu. It handles interprovincial traffic. During the war years, this road linked the southern provinces on the border with Vietnam to Xamneua in the zone controlled by the Neo Lao Haksat. Located west of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, it also suffered from bombing.

During the same period, the main transverse road in the North, linking Muong Sing to Xamneua, had a similar strategic role connecting the border provinces of the North. The Chinese-built road that follows the Nam Beng Valley joined up with the Mekong at Pakbeng, but was not extended to Thailand . There is no direct road link between the Xiengkhuang Plateau and Vientiane . In the Center, Roads 8 and 9 link up with central Vietnam , via the mountain passes of Keo Neua and Lao Bao (the lowest in the cordillera, elevation 420 m). A third bridge planned at Savannakhet, with Japanese financing, as part of the East-West Corridor highway project studied by the ADB, will give prominence to Road 9.



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