Major changes are expected for Vietnam’s railways if plans to double transport capacity by 2020 are to be reached. Report by Vietnam Investment Review.

There were reportedly two reasons the Ministry of Transport (MoT) forwarded Statement 13.669 on revisions to the railway development strategy to 2020 with a vision toward 2050 to the Prime Minister.

Firstly, current railway transport capacity lags far behind the target set in the railway development strategy, approved in a decision passed in November 2008 (Strategy 1686).

Accordingly, railway transport makes up only 0.5 percent of the total passenger transport market share and 1 percent of the freight transport market share.

“The railway sector could hardly achieve the target of 13 percent passenger transport market share and 14 percent freight transport market share by 2020 under current infrastructure,” said Vietnam Railway Corporation’s former deputy general director Vuong Dinh Khanh.

Second, most projects to upgrade and/or overhaul existing railways have lagged behind set progress targets.

According to the revisionary statement the new strategy upholds most of the points made in Strategy 1686, only revising targets to meet practical conditions.

For instance, by 2020 the railway sector will satisfy 1-2 percent of passenger transport demand, 1-3 percent of freight transport demand, and for urban areas in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, 10-15 percent of passenger transport demand.

With respect to the north-south railway network plan from now to 2020, as well as modernising the existing system the ministry has proposed building a 1,435mm gauge dual track line that can run at speeds of up to 200km per hour.

Completing the north-south railway network and scaling up train velocity to 350km per hour is slated for completion by 2050. By that time, old railway lines will be used mainly for freight.

Toward the successful completion of the 1,435 gauge railway, consultants have suggested prioritising a 36.750 trillion VND (1.75 billion USD) 50km test line between Ngoc Hoi and Phu Ly by 2020, and thereafter to 2030 building two new lines, the 234km section from Phu Ly to Vinh city and the 366km section from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang city for a total investment of 406.413 trillion VND (19.3 billion USD).

Ministry statistics show that since Strategy 1686 went into force, a mere 8.070 trillion VND (384 million USD) was injected into improving railway infrastructure, less than 1 percent of the total planned.

With respect to urban railway development in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, though Strategy 1686 set a roadmap for building eight lines in the former and seven in the latter, the railway sector has been largely slow in putting these plans into realising these plans.

Hanoi’s priority urban railway line N°1 project, funded by Japanese ODA as of 2008, has yet to see the developer even finish the first-phase of detailed planning.

Of Hanoi’s four urban railways which are currently under construction, only the Cat Linh-Ha Dong line has the chance of completing its planned finish in mid-2015.

Head of the Vietnam Railway Administration Nguyen Huu Thang said poor performance is due to impediments to investment proposals and land acquisition, as well as capital shortage.-VNA