Vietnam revives plan for multi-billion dollar north-south express railway

Thanh Nien News

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The current railway system that many believe needs to be upgraded soon. Photo: Diep Duc Minh

Five years after lawmakers rejected a costly plan to build a north-south express railway, the transport ministry now wants to bring it back to the table. 
Minister Dinh La Thang on Tuesday ordered his agencies to revise the plan so it can be submitted for approval within the next five years.
The order was made just three months after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved a national plan to develop Vietnam's railway transport by 2050, news website VnExpress reported.
Under the plan, Vietnam will start building a double-track railway with a maximum speed of up to 200 kilometers per hour between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in 2020. It will be put into operation as of 2030, and by 2050 the speed limit will be increased to 350 kph.
Thang was quoted as saying that the transport ministry is considering between building a whole track which can be more than 900 kilometers long, and breaking it into two sections: Hanoi and Vinh Town in the central province of Nghe An, and the central resort town of Nha Trang and HCMC.
While many officials thought it is "easier" to invest in short sections, some experts said a long railway can be more efficient, he said.
According to the plan, as the new system is not going to be available soon, the current railway will be upgraded from now till 2020, so it can handle train speeds at 80-90 kph compared to the current 50 kph.
At the National Assembly's sitting in 2010, lawmakers voted against the government's plan to build an express railway at an estimated cost US$56 billion, half the country's gross domestic product at the time.
Long before that the project had already sparked a heated debate.
Many lawmakers and experts were concerned about its high cost and uncertain effectiveness, saying that it could pile up debt for future generations.

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