$10 bil modernization railway project just to paint deadwood

Vietnam Railway Authority has proposed the Ministry of Transport to assess and approve a north-south railway modernization project with the total capital of US$10 billion, raising pubic concern that it is just to paint deadwood.

Vietnam’s one meter wide single track has become outdated after a century of operation  (Photo: SGGP)

According to the project, the railway will be upgraded to increase average speed limit to 80-90 kilometers per hour to passenger trains and 50-60 kilometers per hour to freight trains.

The north-south railway will be able to transport 15 million passengers and five ton goods a year with 25 couples of trains operating a day and night by 2020.

After the year, the railway industry will continue investment to increase the average speed limit to 90 kilometers per hours to passenger trains and 60 kilometers per hour to freight trains. They will transport 16 million passengers and six million ton goods a year.

Total investment capital for the project will swing from US$8.91 billion to US$10.23 billion.

The authority proposed to implement the project in three phases. The first phase will take place from now until 2015 with a total capital of US$580.56 million. The second phase will spend US$5.7 billion on clearing some bottlenecks. The third phase will invest in additional items to obtain norms under the plan.

Ten billion US dollar is a huge capital for a band-aid solution as there is not enough capital to build a 1.35 meter gauge track like it in other nations.

The over 100 year old railway system has been too outdated and unable to meet the development demand of the country. Railway transportation has much shrunk as residents and businesses have left slow-speed trains for other transport means such as airplanes and buses.

The railway industry has tried many ways to cut short train travel time but they have not brought results as expectations.

From now until 2020, it will spend US$2 billion a year to increase train speed limits with much in the air results because the railway runs through many populated residential areas with many blends.

The increase of railway transport capacity is urgent. However, the US$10 billion project is too costly for a provisional measure.

The railway industry should study to build a 1.435 meter double-track railroad to replace the one meter gauge track. The new railway should locate far from residential areas to save compensation and site clearance costs, prevent wastes from building an additional makeshift track while waiting for sufficient capital for a new railway.

By Nguyen Hien – Translated by Hai Mien

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