A high-class urban railway system is one of the most important solutions to improving the traffic system in Hanoi, but it will be a long time coming.
Hanoi People's Committee statistics show the city has more than 300,000 cars, 3.5 million motorbikes and 1 million bicycles on the road every day. The numbers have increased at a rate of 10-15 percent per year over the last 10 years.
Municipal Committee Deputy Chairman Nguyen Van Khoi said the explosion in the number of vehicles had put the city's transport infrastructure under huge pressure.
Transportation Planning and Management Institute deputy director Khuat Viet Hung said a high-speed urban railway system in Hanoi would connect urban areas, industrial zones, trade-services-tourism centres and schools.
Advantages of urban railways were that they required little land, had less effect on the environment and carried heavy loads (lots of passengers) safely.
However, the first phase of the railway project would not be finished until 2014.
Hanoi's plan was to build five urban railway lines from the centre to the suburbs. The first was a 12km section of the No 3 line from Nhon on the city's outskirts to Hanoi Railway Station. Construction started in September last year and is scheduled to finish in 2014 at a cost of USD1 billion.
The second phase of the project was the 8.5km section from Hanoi Railway Station to Hoang Mai District with an investment of USD600 million. It was expected to be completed by 2016.
Hung said that the most difficult problem was project management.
Vietnam had no experience in building urban railway systems, but laws regulated that the country couldn't hire foreign experts to manage projects, he said, "therefore, we have to manage by ourselves".
Urban Railway Project Management Board deputy director Luu Xuan Hung said building urban railways also required detailed replanning of urban structures along the lines and around railway stations. This was to ensure the quality of the service and efficient connection between the railways and other means of public transport.
Plans to build 5 new rail lines
On July 9, 2008, the Prime Minister approved Hanoi's plans for transportation until 2020, under which the city will have five urban railway lines catering for 30-35 per cent of public transport demand.
Line No 1, 38.7km, Ngoc Hoi - Yen Vien - Nhu Quynh, will serve the outskirts of northeast and southern Hanoi to the city centre.
Line No 2, 35.2km, Noi Bai Airport - city centre - Thuong Dinh, will be the backbone of the urban transport system.
Line No 3, 21km, Nhon-Hanoi Railway Station - Hoang Mai, will link the city's western area with city centre and southern area.
Line No 4, 53km, Dong Anh - Sai Dong - Vinh Tuy - Thanh Xuan - Tu Liem - Thuong Cat - Me Linh.
Line No 5, 34.5km, South of West Lake - Ngoc Khanh - Lang-Hoa Lac, will link the city centre with urban areas along the Lang-Hoa Lac road. – VNS