THE PEOPLE’S COMMITTEE in Ho Chi Minh City has approved a master plan for development of an urban rail network. The Vietnamese Transport Ministry hopes to commission feasibility studies for the first routes by the end of this year, with the aim of starting construction by 2005. Three urban metro lines would total 135 km, and inter-urban routes would serve towns across the Mekong delta. Total cost of the package is put at around US$2·65bn.

The metro routes include a northwest - southeast line of 46·9 km with 44 stations. The Inner Belt line linking Tan Son Nhat, Hoa Hung, Thu Thiem, Ben Thanh, Districts 2 and 9 and Thu Duc will be 43·1 km, serving 45 stations. The third route is an elevated suburban railway from Bien Hoa to Binh Chanh and Hoa Hung; this will have 42 stations along its 46 km length. Some parts of the network will run underground in a single bore tunnel 13·7 m wide; the rest will be elevated on an 11·7 m wide viaduct.

The inter-urban routes include a 43 km line from Long Binh to Hoc Mon, plus routes from Hoc Mon to Tien Giang via Binh Chanh, and Thu Thiem to Vung Tau via Long Binh. Also part of the project is the long-planned rail link from DSVN’s Thu Duc station to the port of Vung Tau via Long Binh and Long Thanh.

Top priority has been given to three sections of the metro. The first will run for 7 km from Tan Son Nhat Airport to Ben Thanh via Saigon station. Around 3·4 km from the airport will be elevated, and the rest will be in tunnel. Expected to carry around 1 million passengers a day, this line is costed at US$316·5m. A 6 km line connecting Ben Thanh and Binh Tay via Districts 1, 5 and 6 will run entirely underground.

Costed at US$395m, this route will handle 900000 passengers a day. The third priority section is an 8·5 km elevated route along the existing DSVN alignment from Binh Trieu to Saigon. Expected to carry 800000 passengers per day, this will cost US$220m.

Funding is expected to come from overseas development loans. Approaches have been made to the Japan Bank for International Co-operation as well as German and American organis-ations. n