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NA debates first law on railways

Update: May, 12/2005 - 00:00

NA debates first law on railways

(12-05-2005)

HA NOI — After 124 years of operation, the first law to govern the Vietnamese railway system was debated yesterday by the National Assembly.

Provisions of the Railway Law debated by delegates pertained to future development, financing infrastructure improvements, management and safety.

The nation’s railroads are in dire need of investment for improvement, said Le Van Cuong, a delegate from the central province of Thanh Hoa.

The annual investment of more than VND400 billion (US$25.47 million) from the State budget is just enough to pay for nearly 40,000 workers and maintain 2,000km of the national system’s 3,000km, Cuong said.

Not a single new kilometre of railway has been built in the past decade.

He said participation by a diverse group of investors will be necessary to the system’s improvement.

Cuong said other countries have found that private investors are hesitant to fund railway projects because they are expensive and take a long time to turn a profit. This leaves national governments with the burden of improving the costly systems.

"The State should enact incentive policies to attract both Vietnamese and foreign investors, ensure fair competition amongst bidders and protect the rights of investors in the sector," said Dinh Thi Ninh from the northern mountainous province of Son La.

"The State should also encourage technological research and personnel training programmes to improve the sector," said the delegate from the southern province of Ca Mau, Tran Thanh Khiem.

"Investment in transport development, means investment in economic development," said Mai Quoc Binh from HCM City.

Most delegates agreed investment should be divided between infrastructure improvement and transport services.

Tran Cong Kich from the northern province of Ninh Binh, however, argued that one organisation should oversee infrastructure and transport services but an independent agency should track the system’s finances.

The quick handling of the E1 train derailment in the central province of Thua Thien- Hue last March proved the importance of a single agency to run the railway, Kich said.

Echoing Kich’s idea for an independent accountant, delegate Dinh Thi Ninh from Son La said the sector’s accounts must be kept transparent.

Vu Ngoc Cu from the northern province of Lao Cai also supported transparent accounting but maintained that the Railway Corporation should be the only organiser of the system.

Nguyen Tan Tuan from Khanh Hoa Province said the responsibilities of the Railway Security Forces remain unclear. He argued that the draft only stipulates the duties of local police and the local people’s committees where accidents occur. Security aboard the trains still needs to be more clearly stipulated, he said.

Nguyen Thi Hong Khanh from the southern province of Dong Nai said new railroads should not cut through residential areas, or along precarious rock formations where rescues would be difficult.

A plan of action for accidents must be made clearer in article ten of the draft, said Hoang Van Loi from Bac Giang Province.

The draft Railway Law which has nine chapters and 120 articles is expected to be approved by the National Assembly on May 19. — VNS

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