Chinese firm offers trackless trams for Hanoi

By Doan Loan   April 12, 2024 | 09:53 pm PT
Chinese firm offers trackless trams for Hanoi
A trackless tram in China. Photo courtesy of China Railway Construction Corporation
A Chinese company has offered to build three trackless tram routes on Hanoi’s Ring Road No.3 and Thang Long Avenue to help ease traffic congestion.

Hunan CRRC Intelligent Transport Technology Co., Ltd., said the first line would run 30 km on the median strip on Thang Long Avenue from the National Convention Center to Hanoi National University.

The second would be 6.3 km long between Bao Son Paradise Park and Nhon, a station on two under-construction metro routes.

The third would run 10 km from the My Dinh Bus Station to Nuoc Ngam Bus Station.

A spokesperson for the company, Nguyen Trong Nghia, said at a seminar on urban railways aimed at reducing congestion on Thursday that the three autonomous rail rapid transit (ART) lines would have 28 stations and 32 trams, each with three or four cars.

The total construction and equipment costs would be an estimated US$466 million, he said.

Trackless trams have significantly lower capital and operational costs than traditional trams, and cost only a 10th of that of metro systems.

For instance, HCMC’s first metro route between Ben Thanh and Suoi Tien is set to cost VND43.7 trillion (US$1.74 billion) to run 19.7 km while a 30-km trackless tram line would cost just over VND6.6 trillion.

According to the World Economic Forum, trackless trams have emerged from high-speed rail technology.

Versions have been in development for almost 20 years, but in 2017 China introduced an autonomously guided tram, a significant advance in ART design and technology.

ART has the ride quality and service characteristics of light rail, but its low cost is because it does not install tracks in the roadbed.

The trams travel on rubber tires, guided autonomously using optical, lidar, radar, and GPS technologies.

They are bi-directional, and have multiple carriages, safety features and communication technologies that contribute to fleet management and ride quality, the WEF said in a 2022 report.

The passenger capacity on regular trams is 25,000 people per hour in one direction, while for ART trams it is 10,000-15,000 people.

La Ngoc Khue, a former deputy transport minister, lauding the cost and other advantages of trackless trams, said: "Hanoi needs 457 km of metro lines according to an approved transport plan, which means costs will be very high and construction will take long.

"So trackless trams are a solution that needs to be studied."

Since trackless trams run on dedicated lanes, the construction time for stations and medians is only six to 10 months, Nghia said.

As for funding, the Chinese company suggested that Hanoi could solicit private investment instead of relying on government money or official development aid loans since the cost is not too high and running costs would be low.

Nghia said one limitation of trackless trams is that, since they need their own lanes, they could only operate in places with wide medians.

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