The big dream of Vietnam railway

Opened October 1936, the North-South Railway has seen various changes over its lifetime. It was damaged extensively by bombs from the two wars brought by France and America. Innumerous railway employees risked their lives to repair the damage.

The moment the country was reunited and regained independence finally meant peace for the railway. Employees have continuously upgraded the railway and trains to reduce travel times between Saigon and Hanoi from 42 hours to 40, 36 and now to 29. However, the dream of rail officials does not stop there.

A railway transport development strategy for 2020 with a vision to 2050, approved by the Prime Minister on November 20, is expected to develop a modern, rapid and sustainable railway transport system. It will have ten stops over 1,630km: Ngoc Hoi, Thanh Hoa, Vinh, Dong Hoi, Hue, Da Nang, Dieu Tri, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and An Binh. The project will cost $33 billion, of which $23.1 billion will come from the government to build infrastructure and $9.9 billion from Vietnam Railways to purchase land and set up facilities.

The North-South Express Railway will be built alongside the current track and will be open to the public.

$2 billion initial funding

Vietnam-Japan Consulting Joint Venture (VJC) estimates $2 billion will be needed to clear the ground for installing the railway. The express railway will require 4,261 hectares of land, about 70 percent is agricultural and forests, 20 percent is rural and 10 percent urban. The project will require the removal of 10,000 houses and relocation of 7,000 farmers.

VJC reports that if the plan stays on schedule travel times in 2020 will be Hanoi – Vinh (1 hour and 24 minutes) and Saigon – Nha Trang (90 mminutes). By 2030 these will include Hanoi – Da Nang (3 hours) and Hanoi – Saigon (5 hours 30 minutes to 6 hours and 30 minutes).

The train fare is expected to equal that of air fares.

By Bich Quyen - Sàigòn Giai Phong - January 3, 2009