Last week, the Vietnam Railways Corporation (VNR) submitted to the Ministry of Transport (MoT) a draft plan on boosting container transport capacity to help ease gridlock in the current roadway system.
According to the report, in 2012 and 2013, VNR will pump capital into raising transport capacity on the Haiphong-Hanoi and Hanoi-Lao Cai rail routes to reduce overloading on national highways 5 and 70.
In the 2014-2015 period, the VNR will ramp up measures to boost container transport capacity on all other rail routes.
To improve the plan's feasibility, MoT Deputy Minister Le Manh Hung asked VNR to make comprehensive appraisals of railway container transportation capacity. He also asked the body to complete planning of current container terminals and yards along the Hanoi-Haiphong rail line.
"The railway sector may get priority in inland goods transport. However, in the long run without vigorous improvements in service quality and connectivity the VNR will find it very tough to jump into the container transport game, let alone share the road system's burdens," said Hung.
Haiphong port is a single seaport with a railway networked into the national railway system. In 2011, the port handled around 1.2 million 20-feet equivalent unit (TEU) container output (averaging 3,300TEU/day). This represented growth of 15–20 per cent year-on-year, putting great pressures on roadway goods transport.
In this context, container transport by railway is proving many advantages as it can transport huge and stable goods volumes while minimising incidents, saving costs and causing less harm to the environment.
"330 TEUs transported by railway each day could replace 200 trucks running on national highway 5," said MoT Deputy Minister Le Manh Hung.
Vietnam Auto Transport Association chairman Nguyen Manh Hung said active participation of the railway sector into container transport could bring multiple benefits, including those to transport firms.
According to preliminary figures from the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam, over 1,000 overloaded trucks run on national highway 5 each day, accounting for 30 per cent of total vehicles on that stretch of road. "Parallel to significantly slashing equipment corrosion costs when big container volumes are transported by rail, drivers can save business costs on the roads," said Hung.
According to Vietnam Railway Freight Transportation Company (VNRFT) general director Tran Duy Luan, the current container transportation capacity of the railway network remains modest against the actual exploitable capacity of more than 100 containers per day based on existing infrastructure.
But forwarding firms said containers transported by rail were subject to rather slow unloading procedures.
The firms added that when containers were transported by rail, firms had to lease trucks to carry their goods to enterprise warehouses.
"Besides, at this point in time the railway sector has neither the loading equipment nor the specialised cranes which present problems for firms," Luan said.