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Proposed Hai Phong–China Train Route Raises Concerns Over Hefty Price Tag

From Hai Phong, the 390-kilometer line would run through Hanoi and Lao Cai before reaching China’s Hekou County.

In a press release issued on Monday, the Ministry of Transportation explained that the VND100 trillion (US$4.34 billion) plan is part of the railway sector’s investment strategy that runs through 2050. No specifics were offered regarding the source of funds for the undertaking, although transportation authorities have recently noted the need for more private investment

The full route, according to a proposal by a Chinese consulting firm, would include 73 bridges and 38 stations, passing through eight provinces and cities including Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Hanoi, Hung Yen, Hai Duong and Hai Phong.

Trains would be able to travel 160km/h atop standard-gauge tracks, in comparison to the country’s current 1,000-mm ones. With an annual capacity of 10 million tons of transported goods, authorities expect the new line to be an important part of the northeast railway network connecting Hai Phong's port with economic centers to the north and west.

No timeline was given for the construction of the line to China. In the meantime, Nguoi Lao Dong to upgrade current lines by 2023 with new locomotives and carriages.

While the transportation ministry is advocating for the proposal, some other experts have expressed concerns over the project's hefty price tag. Economics expert Pham Chi Lan believes that constructing a VND100 trillion train track is too wasteful. "In reality, the movement of goods between Lao Cai and other provinces along the train route is not significant enough to warrant such an expensive project," she told Nguoi Lao Dong in Vietnamese. "Beside the cost, our benefit from it is much lower than that of China."

Lan also cited the existence of current highways between Lao Cai, Hanoi and Hai Phong as a reason behind her disapproval of the proposed railway.

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