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Grand plans

Released at: 02:46, 20/10/2014

Grand plans

Urban railway lines in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will change the face of urban transport in both cities once completed.

by Ngoc Anh

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are Vietnam’s two major political and economic centres. Covering an area of 3,334 sq km with a population of 6.7 million, according to 2011 figures, Hanoi has a central urban area, five satellite urban areas, and three agricultural areas areas. Ho Chi Minh City’s area is nearly 2,100 sq km with a population of over 7.2 million. Large numbers of people from surrounding provinces come to these cities for their studies or to seek work, increasing the number of private vehicles on their streets.

In order to reduce the number of vehicles and meet transport demand, the government has approved the construction of urban railway networks in both cities. Under Decision No 1259/QD-TTg dated July 26, 2011, on general planning for developing Hanoi to 2030 with a vision to 2050, approved by the Prime Minister, Hanoi’s urban railway network is to include eight urban railway lines with a total length of 318 km and three monorail lines totalling 44 km.

Ho Chi Minh City’s urban railway network, meanwhile, is to have seven railway lines and three tramway lines with a total length of 160 km, under Decision No 101/QD-TTg dated January 22, 2007 from the Prime Minister on development planning for Ho Chi Minh City’s transportation network and local planning adjustments for the urban railway system approved by the city’s people’s committee in Decision No 5745/QD-UBND dated December 14, 2009.

Projects underway

By 2020 Hanoi will boast a high-speed urban railway network that connects the city centre with its satellite urban areas. The two projects now under construction are Line No 3 from Nhon in the west of the city to Hanoi Railway Station, and Line No 2A, on a route from Cat Linh - Nga Tu So - Ha Dong. Line No 3, of 12.5 km, will be the “pilot” route, including an 8.5 km elevated section from Nhon to Thu Le Park and a 4 km underground section from Thu Le Park to the Hanoi Railway Station. The line has been designed to allow trains to run at a speed of up to 80 km per hour, carrying over 900 passengers each trip. The entire route can be travelled in 20 minutes, with four carriages per train initially.

Two of the seven metro lines for Ho Chi Minh City are also now under construction: Line No 1 from Ben Thanh Market to Suoi Tien and Line No 2 from Thu Thiem in District 2 to the Tay Ninh Bus Station in District 12. After completion, in late 2017, Line No 1 will carry 186,000 passengers per day, then 620,000 passengers by 2020 and over 1 million by 2040. The line will play a major role in developing the northeast area of the city.

The urban railway networks in both cities will be are connected to a bus network. Line No 3 in Hanoi will be integrated with bus routes at Cau Giay Station, Lines No 3 and 5 (to be built later) will be integrated with a transit-oriented development (TOD) around the station on Kim Ma Street, and Line 3 will be connected to Line No 2A at the Cat Linh - Giang Vo - Giang Van Minh intersection. Taxi ranks and parking lots will also be built near railway stations. According to Mr Nguyen Hoang Linh, Deputy Director of the Hanoi Department of Transport, in order to enhance the transport of passengers it also plans to build more bus stations, expand bus routes, introduce bus rapid transit (BRT) routes, and build other infrastructure. The project is now before the government, so Mr Linh was reluctant to go into detail.

Mr Nguyen Van Quoc, Deputy Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR) and Director of Project Management Unit No 2, emphasised the importance of the integration of urban railway networks with bus routes and other means of transport, such as taxi and “xe om” (motorbike taxis). Each railway line will have an accompanying project to develop connections with other means of transport. “For example, the first phase of Line No 2 has a sustainable integration project and its investor is the Transportation Management Area No 1,” he said. “It will invest in studying the areas around ten stations and will spend an estimated $60 million on building or altering bus stations, taxi ranks and walkways.”

According to Professor Vu Dinh Phung, an expert on construction and transport, the connection between different means of public transport is particularly important, and their timetables must also be linked. From alighting from a train to catching a bus should take no longer than five minutes, he added. To carry as many as passengers as possible on each railway line, an RBT should be introduced with a terminus at train stations. “This would contribute to improving transport capacity,” he said.

Major delays

Urban railway networks are sure to change the face of urban transport in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Construction of all lines, however, is running behind schedule.

On September 25, 2010, the first day of construction of Line No 3 in Hanoi, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung emphasised that strengthening public transport was a pressing matter and that construction of the urban railway network needed to be in parallel with other public transport projects. According to the general planning for Hanoi’s railway network, Line No 3 was to come into operation in 2016, followed by Line No 2A. Progress has been slower than planned at both projects, though, and latest reports suggest the first will be ready by 2018.

Construction of Line No 3, with total investment of over $1 billion, began in 2010, but nearly all of its main bidding packages are still to be conducted. It was originally expected to be completed in 2016, but this was changed to September 2017 and then November 2018 due to problems with land clearance. Construction of Line No 2A, meanwhile, began in April 2010 and trials were expected in September 2015 and full operation by December 2015. Land clearance has also been an issue, and project completion has been put back by two years for an additional cost of $339 million. A representative from the Hanoi Metropolitan Railway Management Board said that, together with land clearance issues, there had also been disagreements between investors and contractors.

Projects in Ho Chi Minh City have also been delayed. The investor and contractors for Line No 1 were to complete the line by early 2018 but as at February this year land clearance issues with 18 households were still to be addressed. Bidding packages have also faced problems. Therefore, according to MAUR, the earliest Line No 1 will be completed is late 2018.

With a length of 11.3 km, construction of the first phase of Line No 2, from Ben Thanh Market to Tham Luong, was planned to be done from 2014 to 2017. Progress is about four months behind schedule, however. It is forecast that the earliest the line will be finished in 2019 - a year later than planned. Once again, problems in land clearance are claimed to be behind the delay. The city still hasn’t determined the starting and completion dates of the other lines in the city because they are in the preparatory stage of investment.

In order to boost progress, the