National

Vietnam opts for Japanese bullet trains

Victory over French, Germans

Kyodo

Vietnam has decided to adopt Japan’s bullet-train system for a high-speed rail link, officials knowledgeable about the situation revealed Friday.

The decision will boost the global status of Japan’s shinkansen technology ahead of its rivals, including France’s TGV and Germany’s ICE. Shinkansen technology has already been adopted by Taiwan.

Vietnam’s decision was delivered to Japan when Prime Ministers Nguyen Tan Dung and Yukio Hatoyama met on the sidelines of the first summit between Japan and five Mekong-region countries in Tokyo in early November, the officials said.

Vietnam’s Parliament is expected to officially decide on the project next May, they said.

However, Vietnam may face difficulty in starting the project as the country has yet to work out concrete steps to procure the funds. Construction of a bullet-train system of this size, running through Vietnam north and south, is estimated to cost at least ¥5 trillion.

Currently, development loans from Japan and other international aid agencies are being considered, they said. But whether Tokyo should provide loans for the project is under question within the government because the railways’s business feasibility is uncertain.

According to Hanoi’s blueprint of the high-speed railway system, the Japan International Cooperation Agency will be consigned research work before the specifics of the project take shape.

Tentatively considered are a 280-km section between Hanoi and Vinh, the capital of Nghe An Province, and another 380-km section between Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang, the capital of Khanh Hoa Province.

According to Japan’s transport ministry, the format of shinkansen technology can save construction and maintenance costs compared with rival TGV and ICE railways. One reason is that support structures along the tracks, such as tunnels, are smaller, the ministry said, adding that antiquake specifications are also superior to its rivals.

Given the global concerns over climate change, many countries want energy-efficient railway systems so they can reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. The transport ministry has set up a special section to help promote bullet-train technology overseas.

“We will pursue this course with all our might, because this will strengthen Japan’s economic growth,” a ministry official said.

Regarding the Vietnamese project, South Korea has also shown interest in taking part, industry sources said, adding that South Korean President Lee Myung Bak informally conveyed Seoul’s interest when he visited Vietnam in October.