China funds planning of new railway in northern Vietnam: ministry hinh anh 1The Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong railway is due to be 392km long with 38 stations and can run both passenger and freight trains. (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - China had funded 10 million yuan (1.4 million USD) for the preliminary planning of a controversial train project in Vietnam that would connect the northern border region all the way through to a busy eastern port, the Ministry of Transport announced on November 25.

The Ministry of Transport in its public statement said that the Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong railway was planned years ago in the Vietnam Railway Development Strategy towards 2020, which was signed off by then Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in 2008.

China in 2015 agreed to provide a non-refundable aid package worth 10 million yuan to help Vietnam conduct surveys and map out the first blueprint for the line following high-level meetings between the two governments, according to the ministry.

China Railway Fifth Survey and Design Institute Group – the project consultant – just finished its preliminary planning for the line. The railway is due to be 392km long with 38 stations and can run both passenger and freight trains.

The transport ministry said it was working with localities that the train was set to run across to consult on the exact locations of the stations.

In the meantime, the project consultant was preparing for its final report before the project was to be submitted to the National Assembly, who would vote on whether the project could be carried out.

The ministry first announced the 100 trillion VND (4.2 billion USD) project last week which immediately sparked criticisms and doubts over the necessity and the practicality of such project, especially the Government’s ability to fund and deliver the project on time.

The concerns came from the fact that Vietnam was already planning to build the North-South High Speed Railway – a trans-Vietnam mega project estimated to cost more than 55 billion USD and deemed an enormous burden on the already strained national budget.

Meanwhile, a number of urban railway projects in Hanoi and HCM City had their investment capitals shot through the roof and were seriously delayed for years.

The transport ministry, however, reaffirmed the need for the northern line on Monday, saying that the railway was “key to establish a transport network in the north of the Hong River, connecting the northwest region to the delta and Hai Phong seaport – one of biggest maritime centres in Vietnam."

According to the project planning, the line is set to go east through eight provinces and cities, with the starting station in the border mountainous province of Lao Cai and runs towards Yen Bai, Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Hanoi, Hung Yen and Hai Duong, before ending in Lach Huyen Port in Hai Phong.

Notably, there will be a 5.6km cross-border rail line connecting Lao Cai with China’s Hekou Railway in Yunnan Province.

The new railway is estimated to transport up to 10 million tonnes of cargo a year.

The railway will have the international standard track gauge of 1,435mm instead of the centuries-old gauge of 1m that was used in the existing Hanoi-Lao Cai train line.

The old Hanoi-Lao Cai line, meanwhile, will stop running after the new line is open, according to the ministry./.