A FEASIBILITY study into the construction of a 128 km line costing US$438m between Ho Chi Minh City and the Cambodian border was submitted last month to Vietnam's transport ministry by China's Railway Construction Corp and the China Machinery Import & Export Corp. Starting from the southern edge of the city, it would be designed for 120 km/h passenger and 80 km/h freight operation.

Provided it was matched by a line to Phnom Penh on the Cambodian side of the border, it would complete the last link in a continuous metre-gauge route from Kunming in China to Singapore, a key element in proposals for a Trans-Asia Railway initiated by Malaysia in 1995.

However, the route through Vietnam would form one part of this proposal, which envisages a 5 500 km metre-gauge network also embracing Laos and Myanmar. Laos has no railway, while Myanmar's remains isolated, although it was briefly linked to Thailand in the 1940s.

Malaysia's International Trade & Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said on May 28 that the Asian Development Bank and China, which 'has huge reserves thanks to its booming economy', could help to finance the project, provisionally costed at US$15bn.