The Lao Cai - Hanoi - Hai Phong line, which will be designed for both passenger and freight operations, will be 392km long with 38 stations, and will replace the existing metre-gauge Lao Cai - Hanoi - Hai Phong line built during the French colonial era. China provided a non-refundable aid package worth Yuan 10m ($US 1.4m) to fund the study.

The line would have a maximum speed of 160km/h for passenger trains and 90km/h for freight.

Vietnam’s transport ministry said it is working with localities to determine the station locations, with a final report being prepared before the project is submitted to the national assembly, which will vote on whether to proceed.

Vietnam Plus reports the Dong 100 trillion ($US 4.3bn) project sparked criticism and doubts over the necessity and the practicality of the line. In particular there is debate over the government’s ability to fund and deliver it on time as the country is already planning to build a $US 55bn North - South high-speed railway.

The transport ministry said the railway was needed, and would be the “key to establish a transport network north of the Hong River, connecting the northwest region to the delta and Hai Phong seaport - one of biggest maritime centres in Vietnam.”

The line is set to run east through eight provinces and cities, starting at Lao Cai, before running towards Yen Bai, Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Hanoi, Hung Yen and Hai Duong, and ending in Lach Huyen Port in Hai Phong. The project includes a 5.6km cross-border line connecting Lao Cai with China’s Hekou Railway in Yunnan Province.

The line is estimated to transport up to 10 million tonnes of freight a year.

For detailed information on rail projects around the world, subscribe to IRJ Pro.