Vietnam Railways wants $107 mln to fence crossings, prevent crashes

By Minh Nga   August 21, 2019 | 08:00 pm PT
Vietnam Railways wants $107 mln to fence crossings, prevent crashes
People cross a railway in northern Vietnam, January 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Chinh.
Vietnam Railways is seeking VND2.5 trillion ($107 million) to erect barriers at all places where rail tracks and roads intersect, legally and otherwise.

The state-owned corporation said in a request to the Ministry of Transport that the funds will be used to build barriers at sections where tracks intersect with roads without gates or other barriers, as well as at sections where locals have illegally opened paths across the tracks.

Its plan is to spend VND672 billion ($28.92 million) completing the work on 168 km (104 miles) of sections in 2021-2022 and the remaining 469 km with VND1.87 trillion ($80.47 million) in 2023-2025.

The corporation has noted that it began working on projects to erect barriers in 2012, but had to suspend these owing to a lack of funds.

It said the work has to be resumed and complete to prevent railway accidents.

There are as many as 5,720 intersections on railway tracks across Vietnam, and more than 4,000 have been opened on the free will of local residents living nearby.

"Up to 70 percent of railway accidents in Vietnam have happened at intersections illegally created by civilians. This should be treated as a core issue that is extremely difficult to solve in order to ensure railway traffic safety," Vietnam Railways Chairman Vu Anh Minh was quoted as saying by the Vietnam News Agency on Tuesday.

The National Traffic Safety Committee said 75 railway accidents happened in Vietnam in the first half of 2019, killing 53 and injured 30. Compared to same period last year, the number of cases rose by 14 and that of deaths by four.

At a meeting in 2017, National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan had said that merely banning people from opening their own paths across railway tracks could not fix the problem. People have to be punished for doing so, she said, adding that the practice was putting "way too much pressure on the train drivers."

Raising investment funds on its own has been a difficult task for the railway sector, which has been losing ground to road and aviation transportation in Vietnam.

Trains attracted only 4.3 million passengers during the first half this year, or 94 percent of the figure in the same period last year, marking the lowest figure ever in the history of the railways, according to official data.

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