According to the Railway Management Board, most bridges on the railway connecting Hanoi and HCM City were built a century ago using French standards with low capacities.
Stone and concrete abutments have weathered over time. Steel girders are cracked and covered in rust.
Meanwhile, the development of river transport has put pressure on weak railway bridges.
To ensure safety and minimise losses caused by collisions between waterway vehicles and railway bridges, there is an urgent need for repair or replacement.
Moreover, railway lines were severely destroyed in wartime. Although bridges have been repaired, their capacities are still limited, reducing the railway’s competitiveness compared to other means of transport.
“The project aims to increase bridges’ capacity to 4.2 tonnes per metre, ensure safety and increase average speed. It will help to lift a 25-carriage train’s average transport capacity up to 140 tonnes, utilise pulling power of modern locomotives and enhance effectiveness of the investment,” the board announced.
According to Vu Anh Minh, head of the Vietnam Railways Members’ Council, investment into railway improvement remains low, meeting only 1 percent of demand.
At present, 6 trillion VND (258 million USD) is needed to upgrade railway infrastructure; however, only 30 percent has been funded.
“With that 30 percent, we have to choose facilities that need urgent repair. Meanwhile, other constructions have become degraded, posing threats to railway safety,” said Minh.
“To increase the average speed by 10 percent, 10 trillion VND (430 million USD) is needed to upgrade the whole North-South railway system. By reducing traveling time from 11 hours to 10 hours, the difference in economic value is not high while the cost is huge. Therefore, Vietnam Railways focuses more on increasing trains’ loading capacity,” he added.
There are more than 1,400 bridges with a total length of 36,332m on the North-South railway. Many of them have very low capacity of about 3.6 tonnes per metre, especially in parts between the central city of Da Nang and HCM City.
On March 20, 2016, the collapse of Ghenh Bridge in the southern province of Dong Nai shut down the North-South railway, leaving enterprises dealing with soaring transport costs.
The bridge was repaired and came into operation in July, 2016, three months after the incident.