The Ministry of Transport has unveiled plans to lay eight broad-gauge railway tracks in the southern and south-central regions by 2020.

The rails will measure 1.435 metres between the inner edges instead of the current one metre.

To be built mostly in and around HCM City , they are estimated to cost 341 trillion VND (16.2 billion USD), and will be sourced from ODA loans, Government bonds, and the private sector besides public funds.

Nguyen Van Doanh, deputy chief of the Department of Railways, said the railway network and facilities would be improved in HCM City and its surrounding provinces.

The Southern Transport Engineering Design Incorporation, which drafted the comprehensive plan, said a total land area of 1,458 hectares would be needed for the project, including 508ha in HCM City, 377ha in Dong Nai Province, and 314ha in Binh Duong.

The department has urged localities to inform residents and relevant agencies about the land areas that would be acquired so that they would be prepared.

Passenger trains would travel above or below ground in the city centre, it said.

Dang Minh Hai, deputy director of the Southern Transport Engineering Design Incorporation, said the wider gauge would allow trains to run at a speed of at least 120 kilometres an hour.

The construction of the new rail would not affect the operation of the existing one-metre-gauge railway, he said.

All eight would have twin tracks for trains to run in both directions at the same time. The trains will run on electricity instead of diesel as they do now, causing less damage to the environment.

Hai said technology would be used to reduce the noise of trains and improve level crossing systems in residential areas.

The existing 2,000km of tracks, which were built more than 100 years ago by the French, have become decrepit and are in urgent need of upgrades and renovation.

It takes trains around 30 hours to cover the 1,726km between Hanoi and HCM City.-VNA