Construction of the North-South high-speed railway should kick off in 2012 to meet the country’s rising traffic demand, according to a cabinet meeting.
Speaking at a government cabinet meeting on Wednesday, prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung asked the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Transport, Vietnam Railway Corporation and relevant agencies to complete the project feasibility study in the near future.
He said the agencies should clarify the needs of the project to convince the investors to sponsor the project when it is approved by the government.
Rail travel demand is forecast to increase to 48,000 passengers per day by 2020, requiring high-speed railway development.
In order to meet rising traffic demand, express railway construction should be a top priority, officials said.
Currently, there are 18 pairs of trains running on the Thong Nhat North-South railway, transporting no more than 5,400 passengers a day.
This is insufficient to meet demand, particularly during peak hours such as the summer holiday, special events and Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays.
To put the North-South high-speed railway into operation by 2020, the design and construction must begin in 2012, experts said.
This schedule is based on similar construction works in other countries and the Vietnamese capabilities and capacity including infrastructure and investment capital.
When the project is put into use, it will reduce the travel time between the two major cultural and economic hubs in the north and south which contribute up to 90 percent of national gross domestic product.
The project will also increase urbanisation, lighten the weight on big urban areas, protect the environment and ease road congestion.
However, the project has faced some difficulties such as lack of investment capital, modern technology and human resources.
Human resource training programmes should be launched so that employees can use modern equipment and undertake planning for high-speed railway projects.
It also requires favourable policies to speed construction.
According to the expert calculations, the Hanoi-Vinh section and Nha Trang-HCM City section would be put into use by 2020.
The Vinh-Da Nang section will be completed by 2030 and the entire project is expected to be in use by 2035.
The travel time on the proposed Hanoi-Vinh high-speed railway and HCM City-Nha Trang high-speed railway will be 1 hour 24 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes, respectively.
The North-South high-speed railway invested in by the Vietnam Railway Corporation has a total estimated investment capital of 1.066 trillion (US$55.8 million).