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Key factors to accelerate Hanoi's urban rail project
Son Nguyen 16:25, 2023/10/01
The more extensive the urban rail network, the better it will contribute to socio-economic growth.

Bottlenecks are holding back the development of urban railways. Le Trung Hieu, Deputy Director of the Board of Directors of Hanoi Metropolitan Railways, talks to The Hanoi Times about how to solve them.

What do you think about the role of urban railways in transportation and socio-economic development?

Urban railways are the backbone of the public transport network. They run on their own tracks without being crossed by roads, so commuting is easier, faster, and unaffected by external factors such as weather and traffic congestion.

The Cat Linh-Ha Dong railroad stretches over Dong Da Lake in Hanoi. Photo: Pham Hung/The Hanoi Times

The already operational Cat Linh-Ha Dong urban rail line, the first of its kind in Vietnam and Hanoi, is a testament to the efficiency of modern rapid transit. As people choose to travel by rail, traffic congestion has been reduced.

The development of light rail is also one of the long-term solutions for socio-economic growth and environmental protection, especially as the government has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Thus, Hanoi also commits to joining the nation in reducing emissions and environmental pollution.

On the other hand, the development of urban railways allows us to learn modern technologies and create new industries and businesses. We have had access to core technologies in urban railway development. With the completion of the Cat Linh-Ha Dong and Nhon-Hanoi Station lines, Vietnamese secondary contractors have and will receive technology transfers from the main contractors.

What does urban railway mean for Hanoi?

Railways use one-fifth of the land area of other forms of transportation. The faster the projects progress, the better the Hanoi authorities will be able to solve traffic problems.

The capital has taken measures to adopt the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) model, which places public transport at the core of urban development. It makes urban railways the foundation for urban restructuring.
The Van Cao-Hoa Lac line, or Metro Line No. 5, will be the first to follow the TOD model. The metro line is expected to speed up the relocation of educational and training institutions to the suburban areas and become the key mass transportation means connecting urban districts with Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park and surrounding areas. Once operational, the line is expected to relocate part of the population to the western region.

Local contractors have already mastered the technologies, so they need a challenge to test their skills. If they prove their qualities in the construction of Metro Line No. 5, they will have a chance in similar projects.

Could you explain the TOD model in more detail?

Le Trung Hieu, Deputy Head of the Hanoi Metropolitan Railway Management Board.

The TOD model is the principle that puts mass rapid transit and urban rail at the center of urban development. The key is to combine urban rail projects with real estate projects to maximize land values and offset project investments.

With TOD, land auctions would be held in parallel with the construction of rail projects. Proceeds from land auctions are reinvested in other rail projects.

The Cat Linh-Ha Dong line is the first and only fully operational line in Hanoi. For this reason, there is little connection between the light rail and the overall mass transit network, undermining the benefits of urban rail and TOD implementation.

The growth of the light rail network will stimulate demand for public transport and socio-economic development.

Given its important role, why is urban rail transit still underdeveloped?

One of the major difficulties is the lack of funding. To attract private investors, the government has to build several model lines that run through urban districts. Although these projects often struggle with land clearance and generate low profitability, they motivate private investors to come in.

The administrative process is another key challenge hindering urban rail project progress. We need to improve the regulatory system for the implementation of railway projects. We should also explore the assistance of lawyers to protect our rights and settle any disputes, as we once experienced with the Cat Linh-Ha Dong railway project.

As mentioned above, land clearance is a key part of project implementation. We have only paid compensation to the households whose land is requisitioned, while we have no plans for those affected by the construction.

The rules for the TOD model are not well arranged. We don't have any strategies to make TOD projects fit the practical conditions in Vietnam.

And what are your recommendations to remove the obstacles to urban railway projects?

We have advised the Hanoi People's Committee to delegate power to subordinate authorities, allowing them to make decisions and speed up projects.

We need to explore the TOD model to shorten the construction period for large-scale urban railway projects, which require thousands of trillions of dong in investment capital.

In addition, we need to develop a general regulation for all urban railway lines. Such a general regulation, with specific detailed requirements for projects and accountability for developers, will speed up projects and optimize the role of public transport.

The Hanoi People's Council has recently approved compensation plans for Metro Lines 2 and 3, which are part of the Nhon-Hanoi Station project. These plans must become an example of fair treatment and compensation for everyone.

Thank you!

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