BackTravel » Officials Announce (Yet Another) Plan to Restore Historic Đà Lạt-Tháp Chàm Railway

The 84-km railway line connecting Đà Lạt and Tháp Chàm (Phan Rang) was built between 1908 and 1932 and abandoned in 1976.

Plans to restore the full line at a cost of VND28 trillion (US$1.15 billion) were announced at a meeting between the Ministry of Transportation and Ninh Thuận authorities last week. The ministry has selected the Bạch Đằng Hotel Complex Trading - Service JSC from Đà Nẵng as the primary investor for the public-private partnership (PPP) project.

If all progresses smoothly, the investor will submit a pre-feasibility study for approval sometime in the next two years and the project will be completed and begin operations in 2030. Once complete, the railway is expected to support local tourism and socio-economic development. 

Similar aspirations to rejuvenate the line were expressed in 2019 with a pre-feasibility study report announced by the Ministry of Transportation, investors and authorities. The plan, which never came to fruition, was expected to cost VND10 trillion (US$431 million) at the time. In 2007, authorities also put forth a plan for restoration estimated to cost US$320 million.

In 1991, a seven-kilometer stretch of the railway was restored between the Đà Lạt Station and Trại Mát Station; it continues to operate today as a tourist attraction. Meanwhile, two of the line's original Swiss locomotives that were re-patriated and refurbished in the 1990s have since gone into operation on a historic route in Switzerland.

The original route consisted of 12 stations, two tunnels, and five bridges. Cogwheel tracks provided the extra traction necessary to successfully traverse the mountainous region which included the Sông Pha Mountain Pass at 1,500 meters above sea level. It is one of the world's oldest cogwheel railways and was an impressive feat of engineering and construction at the time. 

[Photo by Thao Phan T. Phuong on Unsplash]

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