VN should delay national high-speed rail, say Japan experts

Japanese railroad experts said at a conference September 15 that Vietnam should postpone a project to build a North-South high-speed railroad by ten to twenty years, as it would yield higher economic efficiency.

In the development plan for the whole route by 2026, if the train ticket price is equal to flight ticket prices the number of passengers will reach around 146,000 a day; 172,000 people a day if it is just 75 percent of a flight; 208,000 people if it is half; and 248,000 people if it is 25 percent of a flight, they said.

Iwata Shizuo, representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said that four solutions for ticket prices and proportional passengers showed that the plan is not economically feasible.

The revenue created would be just enough to cover operating expenses without covering investment costs, he said.

In another plan, JICA suggested that it will first develop some sections which expect to have large numbers of passengers, including Ho Chi Minh City – Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City – Phan Thiet, Hanoi – Thanh Hoa, and Hue – Danang.

However, if even half of the number of passengers buy business class tickets and the rest use economy tickets, the project is still not feasible.

According to Japanese railway experts, the efficiency of the project will be doubled if it is stalled by ten or twenty years, as the population of the cities along the route will rise to 39 million by that time.

In addition, high-speed railway takes the upper hand against air travel on medium distances.

JICA suggested the Government to first intensify development of the cities along the railway.

Deputy Transport Minister Ngo Thinh Duc said the project would be presented to the National Assembly in May next year.

The Government has approved the project at a total cost of US$38 billion.

The 1,570-kilometer North-South high-speed railway, with 26 stations, is expected to take five and a half hours from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, as compared to 29 hours of the current fastest train.

By Minh Duy – Translated by Yen Thao

Other news