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Railways driven into the sidings

Update: November, 14/2015 - 09:29
Workers repair tracks in Viet Tri City, Phu Tho Province. Little expansion has been made to Viet Nam's railway network since it opened over a century ago. — VNA/VNS Photo The Duyet
HA NOI (VNS)— Little expansion has been made to Viet Nam's railway network since it opened over a century ago.

A recent report by the Viet Nam Railway Authority (VNRA) showed that most of the country's rail network still resembles that built during the French colonial time in the late 19th century.

Though a big north-south cross-country line was built later in 1976, the national rail network has yet to reach two strategic parts of the country – the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands.

The country's sea ports, which had grown in both size and number through years, were often left unconnected. Some old railways running to sea ports such as Cua Lo, Quy Nhon and Sai Gon had even been demolished and erased from the rail map, said the report.

VNRA head Vu Quang Khoi admitted that railway infrastructure was outdated with old technology and limited transport capability.

Some 85 per cent of Viet Nam's railways used single-track lines where trains travelling in both directions shared the same track, Khoi said, plus other weaknesses that limited transport to no more than 50 trains a day.

"The number of trains running on single-tracks can reach 80-90 trains a day in advanced countries, and as high as 400 to 480 on double-tracks," he said.

This lack of development had played an undeniable role in the dramatic drop in the percentage of railway transport.

During its peak years, railway transport accounted for nearly 30 per cent of total passenger transport in the country, and 7.5 per cent of freight transport, said Khoi.

In 2013, railway passenger transport rate dropped to merely 3.5 per cent and to 1.7 per cent of total freight transport.

Constant investments in roads across the country that made transport easier for personal vehicles and the recent boom of budget airlines were also reasons the railways' decline.

The rapid expansion of low-cost airlines like Vietjetair, Air Asia and Nok Air has placed even more pressure on the railway network.

"Of course I would choose air travel over trains," said Nguyen Thu Hang, a travel-lover.

"Air fares are very cheap now, sometimes as cheap as train tickets. Travelling by plane also take less time than by train." — VNS

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