70 billion USD to build North-South high-speed railway: Which scenario to choose?

, 70 billion USD to build North-South high-speed railway: Which scenario to choose?
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3 scenarios for the North-South high-speed railway project

The Ministry of Transport has presented a plan to the Government regarding a high-speed railway that would go from north to south. The plan has three scenarios, and the Ministry is seeking opinions on them.

Scenario 1 proposes a new double-track railway, with a rail gauge of 1,435mm, running from north to south. The railway would be 1,545km long, with a design speed of 350 km/h, and a load of 17 tons per axle. It would only be used for passenger trains. The existing North-South railway line would be upgraded to transport goods, tourists, and short-distance passengers. The total investment capital for this scenario is approximately $67 billion.

According to the Ministry of Transport, Scenario 1 would fulfill transportation needs, create a balance between modes of transport on the North-South corridor, form a separate railway line for passengers and goods, shorten passenger transport time, and have low investment and operating costs. However, freight transport can only be connected by a 1,000mm gauge on the North-South axis. New railway lines are all oriented to be built according to the standard gauge of 1,435mm, so goods must be transferred at major stations, which is not convenient for freight transport.

Scenario 2 proposes a new double-track railway, with a rail gauge of 1,435mm, running from north to south. The railway would have a load capacity of 22.5 tons per axle, a design speed of 200 – 250 km/h, and would be used for both passenger and freight trains, with freight trains running at a maximum speed of 120 km/h.

The advantage of this scenario is that it would provide convenient transport of goods on the North-South axis and convenient connection with other railway lines with 1,435mm gauge. The disadvantage is that passenger transport would be less attractive, and investment, operation, and maintenance costs would be high.

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Scenario 3 proposes a new double-track railway, with a rail gauge of 1,435mm, running from north to south. The railway would have a load of 22.5 tons per axle and a design speed of 350 km/h. It would be used for passenger trains, but would also reserve space for cargo when needed. The total project investment capital for this scenario is nearly $69 billion. If infrastructure, equipment, and vehicles are invested in to operate North-South freight trains, the project investment capital would be around $72 billion.

According to the Ministry of Transport, Scenario 3 would completely renew the North-South high-speed railway. It would consist of 60% bridges, 10% tunnels, and 30% running on the ground. The entire route would have 23 passenger stations, 5 freight stations, 4 depots, and so on.

Should priority be given to carrying passengers or cargo?

Phan Le Binh, a traffic expert, supports Scenario 1 for the North-South high-speed railway. Mr. Binh believes that the railway will relieve pressure on road traffic, which is especially important for people in small urban areas along the route. He also stated that rail travel is very safe and can help reduce the potential risks of traffic insecurity for commuters.

Mr. Phan Le Binh suggests that high-speed railways should be designed at 350 km/h. This is because the cost of building a 350 km/h speed railway is only about 15-20% higher than a 150-200 km/h speed railway. Additionally, faster travel times will attract more customers compared to aviation, especially for long distances.

When it comes to combining passenger and cargo transport, Mr. Binh believes that it would be a waste of the current railway line. He suggests that existing railways should be renovated to become specialized freight routes, taking advantage of existing land and infrastructure. Mr. Binh explains that combining passenger trains with freight trains would greatly hinder the exploitation of the passenger capacity of that railway. Trains that want to pass each other must have a certain amount of space, otherwise, only one train can run on the route. So, if there is a slow-moving cargo train, it will obstruct the entire route. Furthermore, a freight train would require a different route design, which would significantly increase investment costs.

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Mr. Binh emphasized that the North-South high-speed railway is necessary due to the country’s geography, with terrain stretching from North to South through many provinces. With people’s travel needs increasing, it is crucial to choose a plan for construction soon.

@dantri.com.vn

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