The plan calls for modernisation of the north-south railway, the 1726km single-track metre-gauge line between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi where speeds will be increased to 80-90km/h for passenger services, and 50-60km/h for freight by 2020. Key stations are also set for upgrades and there will be significant attention on eliminating level crossings.

In the long-term, the strategy states the goal of building a 1435mm-gauge line on the north-south route between 2020 and 2030. This line will initially offer speeds of up to 200km/h, with a view to an upgrade to 350km/h after 2050. The strategy calls for the necessary preparations to construct sections with high transport demand, especially in regions surrounding Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

After 2050 the strategy also calls for the development of the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) route, the trans-Asia line, as well as links to major seaports and industrial regions.

The strategy says rail should aim to achieve 1-2% of passenger market share and 1-3% of freight by 2020 as well as 4-5% of urban transport in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Up to 2030, it calls for rail to meet 3-4% of the passenger market, 4-5% of freight and 15-20% of urban transport.