Express 918: Thanaleng (Vientiane) to Nong Khai by Shuttle Train

The Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train is a popular mode of transport between Thanaleng or Dongphosy, the only passenger railway station in Laos to the Thai border town of Nong Khai just after the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River. The shuttle train between Thanaleng (Vientiane) and Nong Khai commenced on 5 March 2009, making it the first dedicated cross-border shuttle train in ASEAN.

My transfer from Vientiane city with Mr Per arrived at around 4.15pm, which left me good time to catch the 5.30pm train from Thanaleng to Nong Khai.

Tickets from Thanaleng to Nong Khai costs 20 Baht or 6,000 Kip (~S$0.97). I suggest you use Lao Kip to pay for the ticket despite being ever so slightly more expensive (3 Baht more, or around ~S$0.13) as it is difficult to change Lao Kip outside of Laos, and there are no banks or money changers anywhere near Thanaleng Railway Station.

Despite the sole train operator being the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), the station is manned by staff of Lao Railways.

My 6,000 Kip ticket from Thanaleng to Nong Khai. The Thai immigration form is also provided by the ticket counter.

Once done with purchasing the ticket, hop over to the other side of the hall to get stamped out of Laos. Prepare 50 Baht or 10,000 Kip for the immigration officer for your exit stamp/to get your passport back.

Once done with getting the ticket and clearing immigration, you can freely wait around the station.

I decided to spend my time getting shots of Thanaleng Railway Station and the Hitachi RHN Railcar.

The Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train is served by a dedicated 2-car Hitachi RHN Railcar set, formed of RHN 1026 and RHN 1046.

Tracks are formed of the typical SRT standard with concrete sleepers and BS100A rails on meter gauge.

The Thanaleng Railway Station sign is of a similar design to typical SRT stations, with a blue background instead of white.

Straight ahead lies the LLSE Container Yard, and the end of the line of the railway network in Laos.

The platforms are capable of long-distance trains of more than 10 cars, however, this is not fully utilized, and I’m not sure if it will ever be.

The end of the line of Laos.

The southern end of the platform, towards Thailand.

Thanaleng Railway Station has 3 platforms serving 2 tracks, and another 3 tracks on loop lines. I’m not sure if the five tracks will ever be fully utilized, since the container yard is just a short stretch away, offering if no or negative time savings if cargo trains were ever to have to cross here.

Looking towards Thailand.

The only passenger train serving Laos, twice a day.

The interior of RHN 1046.

RHN 1046 seems to be a trailer car, with no interior fittings for the exhaust system.

Seats are well padded for a comfortable ride on Third Class.

There are also sufficient hand grips around for standees, if ever required.

The toilet is rather clean, but not many people use it for this short hop across the border anyway.

The gangway between cars are not covered by vestibules.

The interior of RHN 1026, the motor car.

Passengers boarding the Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train just before departure.

The station bell was rung about 1 minute before departure, however, it didn’t sound like it had a pattern to it, unlike the bell rings in Thailand.

Getting the clearance from the Lao Railways station master.

Departing a few seconds early from 5.30pm.

Goodbye Laos.

Some Laotian paddy fields along the way.

Entering the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge premise.

All road traffic is halted while the train makes its way across the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.

Passing over Vientiane No. 1 Road towards Vientiane city.

Crossing over the Mekong River.

Passing over the border of Laos and Thailand.

Back in Thailand.

Exiting the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge premise, turning away from the main road.

Heading towards Nong Khai Railway Station.

Hmm, an ex-Kyoto City Bus Vientiane City 2 Bus without the new door cut out on the right side has gone astray into Thailand.

Approaching Nong Khai Railway Station.

Arriving at Platform 2 on time.

Push the button to open the doors once it is lighted up when the train has stopped.

Disembarking from the Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train.

Crossing over to the immigration hall at the northern end of Platform 1.

Queuing for immigration. Do note that for overland visa-free entries into Thailand, there is a limit of only two (2) overland entries per calendar year. More details described here.

I was one of the last to clear immigration, which took under 30 minutes. Passengers who were taking the Express 78 were fast-tracked so that they could get tickets in time for the 6.15pm departure.

Here, it was another about an hour’s wait for the departure of my Special Express 26 Isan Mankha ride back to Bangkok.

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