Vietnam News

Experts divided on 250-kph transnational railroad

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A 250-kilometer-per-hour railroad line that can transport both passengers and cargo is more desirable than passengers-only bullet trains, but will have higher technical requirements and cost more, experts said.

The rail link, which the government is considering, would help increase the share of goods transported by railroad from the current 1.5%, La Ngoc Khue, a former deputy transport minister, told VnExpress.

Vietnam’s logistics costs are double that of neighboring since roads remain the most common means of transport, and this makes the country less competitive in attracting investment, he said.

The Ministry of Transport had earlier considered building a 350kph passengers-only rail route with cargo continuing to be transported on the existing rail corridor after upgrades.

But Dang Huy Dong, head of the Planning and Development Institute, said the 250-kph railway has a better shot at profitability.

Since 80% of the population is middle income or lower, people prefer trains to flying since they cost less and are more comfortable.

The high-speed train, traveling at 200-225kph, would take the same time as an airplane to complete the north-south trip if check-in time is included, he said.

But a 350-kph train would be more expensive and might have little patronage, he added.

The consultancy consortium, comprising the University of Transport and Communications Consultancy and Construction, Germany’s Evo mc, Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong, and Hung Phu Trading and Construction Consultant, estimates that fares on the 250-kph train will be equal to 75% of low-cost airfares, while cargo will cost 40%.

The railroad could fetch annual revenues of $11 billion, and the government would not need to subsidize it, it said.

There could be a train every 7.5 minutes and 270 pairs of trains in a day, meaning 163 million passengers and 65 million tons of cargo could be transported annually.

Khue said the 250-kph railway would allow domestic companies to be involved in the construction, while faster trains would exclude them from the game as happened in the metro projects.

“Vietnam is not capable of building a 350-kph railroad and will have to completely depend on foreign partners.”

But there are several cons for the 250-kph option too.

Some experts said there would be technical and infrastructure challenges if passenger and freight trains run together, and then, for safety reasons, a halt stations, where trains usually stop for safety reasons, must be built every 20 kilometers.

The 250-kph option requires around 70 main stations, while the other only needs around 20, they said.

Bridges need to be strengthened to carry freight trains, adding to the cost, they pointed out.

The government plans to have the transnational railway carrying 11.7 million tons of cargo annually, but they said this could be done by 25 pairs of trains a day.

This is why some experts say that the 250kph option is not necessary as it will abandon the current railway, and prefer the 350kph option dedicated to only passenger transport.

The slower option is set to cost more at $61.67 billion, compared to the faster option’s $58.7 billion price.

By Doan Loan – – November 9, 2022

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