Vietnam rehashes plan for ambitious high-speed railway

By Doan Loan   September 12, 2016 | 07:52 pm PT
Vietnam rehashes plan for ambitious high-speed railway
Railway workers do maintenance work on rail tracks on Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi. Photo by AFP
The transport ministry is trying to revive a plan to build a high-speed rail link.

The Ministry of Transport is trying to bring back a once rejected plan to build a high-speed rail link to replace Vietnam’s only north-south line that has become obsolete.

In a new proposal, the ministry has asked that the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, consider new amendments to the Railway Law, which lays out the construction of a high-speed rail link among other things.

The proposed legislation is expected to be submitted at an upcoming session of the National Assembly in October, according to Phung Quoc Hien, vice chairman of the legislature.

In its own ambitious timeframe, the transport ministry plans to submit a pre-feasibility study report on the project to the government in 2018 and expects legislators to give their approval by 2020.

No cost projection has been provided.

The project may be broken down into various routes and phases, with the Saigon-Long Thanh line in the south being the pilot route, Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong said in a meeting on Monday.

Then the Hanoi-Vinh section will be built. The routes from Hanoi and HCMC to Da Nang are expected to be completed after 2030.

“The plan is to complete the whole project by 2050,” Dong said.

Currently, South Korea and Japan are helping to conduct studies on some key sections, he added.

Vietnam really needs a high-speed rail project to serve around 50-70 million passengers because airport and road systems linking the northern and southern regions are unlikely to meet the soaring transport demand in the next decades, Dong said.

The National Assemby’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment supported the idea, but it demanded more detailed plans on funding sources and necessary measures to be taken.

At present, rail accounts for just 0.7 percent of passenger transport in the country, much lower than the 62 percent by road.

The current north-south railway system in Vietnam has been degrading after decades of use. It was completed by the French in 1936.

Legislators in 2010 rejected a $56-billion project to build a north-south high-speed railway and suggested that shorter high-speed lines connecting some regions and provinces would be more suitable for the country.

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