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New Proposal Wants to Reduce Speed of High-Speed Train to Save $33bn

As a new proposal suggests, by switching the route and reducing speed by 150km/h, the high-speed railway connecting Hanoi and Saigon is estimated to cost just US$26 billion, instead of the initial US$58.7 billion.

According to Tuoi Tre, an original plan presented in August suggested that construction of the high-speed railway would cost approximately US$60 billion and allow trains to travel at 350km/h by the end of 2050. The trip would last between five hours and 17 minutes and six hours and 50 minutes, depending on the number of stops. 

However, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), using analysis of professionals from Germany and the Netherlands, now says that it would be more efficient and feasible to optimize the route and reduce the operational speed from 350km/h to 200km/h, creating savings of US$33 billion. The ministry said that the journey between Hanoi and Saigon would thus take around eight hours with reduced speed.

In a letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the MPI proposed that letting a passenger-only system run at the original 350km/h speed would be both redundant and wasteful. It would also lead to high ticket prices and impact the rail route's competitiveness again air travel, which is becoming more affordable over time.

Dr. La Ngoc Khue, former Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, told the newspaper that the initial US$59 billion cost would take up nearly 50 times more than the average share of Vietnam's central state budget for the development of transport infrastructure.

The north-south high-speed railway system is proposed to be 1,545 kilometers long with 23 stations, crossing 20 cities and provinces in Vietnam. The ministry expects this system to replace the existing 83-year-old railroad, which runs much more slowly, requiring at least 31 hours to travel between Hanoi and Saigon. 

[Photo: Japan's high-speed Shinkansen train in Osaka Station/Flickr user gérard]

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