Trans-Sumatra and Trans-Vietnam railways

Batam construction report, China firm renews interest in Panay Railways revival, Vietnam’s high-speed railway is back on the agenda, and more construction and transport news in Southeast Asia.

This week I published a guide for the Trans-Sumatra Railway. Not that there has been any news about it recently, but there are already some railways operating that will form part of a trans-island railway.

While I was putting this guide together, my Vietnam news stream was awash with news that the government is seeking to approve the North-South express railway next month.

The current north-south railway in Vietnam is 1725 km in length. The new railway will shorten the length to 1545 km by straightening the line with bridges and tunnels. I always think of Vietnam as a ridiculously long country (and it feels that way after spending 31h 25m on the fastest train from Hanoi to Saigon). It’s height to width ratio is up there with Italy and Chile, and this makes it look longer than it is. So I was amazed to read that the proposed Trans-Sumatra Railway is 2,168 km in length. I would not have guessed that Sumatra would be longer than Vietnam (without looking at a map).

That is Sumatra for you. This gigantic island is just sitting there in plain site with little attention paid to it. I look at the articles I’ve published on my coverage map and see I haven’t covered enough. I plan to do rail guides for Nomadic Notes (such as my South Sumatra rail report) so that will improve my Sumatra coverage at Future Southeast Asia.

There are lots of news articles this week, and I have added some more thoughts on the North-South Vietnam railway in the news section.

Latest Posts At Future Southeast Asia

I was planning to publish this last week alongside Future Batam, but travel gets in the way of publishing productivity. As with all my construction updates, I put an image of what is going to be built alongside what it looks like at the moment.


“Southeast Asian megacities host conferences to draw business travelers.”

🇰🇭 Cambodia

"Once regarded as the "jewel of Asia," Cambodia’s capital has since become a byword for sprawl and shambolic planning."

“Rampant development turns seaside jewel into mess of unfinished casinos and condos.”

🇮🇩 Indonesia

🇱🇦 Laos

This report has been syndicated via most of the SE Asia news outlets. What none of them mention is the percentage of north and south tonnage. It won’t be a great revelation that more goods are coming down than up, but it would still be interesting to know. I passed a lot of containers in Laos going to China. Were they all empty? It would also work the other way with fruit export to China, as the refrigerated containers would be coming back empty.

🇲🇾 Malaysia

[Updated: Forest City]

"The federal government’s nod for Penang’s first LRT line hinges on the environment department’s approval for reclamation of an island, according to the transport ministry."

[Updated: Bayan Lepas LRT]

🇲🇲 Myanmar

[Updated: Shwe Kokko New City]

🇵🇭 Philippines

[Updated: Panay Railway]

🇸🇬 Singapore

“Float will finance rail network expansion to reduce automobile use.”

I was in Singapore this month and I realised that I always take a photo of the People’s Park Complex. Maybe I subconsciously know its days are numbered.

[People’s Park Complex in Chinatown.]

🇹🇭 Thailand

• I enjoyed this video by Bangkok Pat on how the BTS SKYTRAIN was born

🇻🇳 Vietnam

• The North-South express rail link is back in the news this week. Here are two stories that will get you up to speed:

“The Ministry of Transport will submit to the Politburo for consideration an investment policy for the construction of a North-South express rail link, which would cost up to 58.71 billion USD, this September.”

“The project was rejected a decade ago due to its eye-watering cost. Are things any different now?”

I’ve added these articles to the North–South Express Railway page. If you go through the news archive on this page you will see that these announcements have been made numerous times over the years, so I am not getting excited about this yet.

One bit of hope that this might finally happen is that earlier this month the government announced they were spending 51.3 million USD in renovating the Vinh – Nha Trang section of the current North-South railway. The new North-South railway will be built in stages, with Hanoi-Vinh and HCMC-Nha Trang being first. The Vinh – Nha Trang section would be so far away from being built that the current line would still need to be maintained during this time.

The media is still reporting that the speed will be up to 350km/h, but a reduced speed would also reduce the construction cost. I have written about the proposed speeds of the Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City Express Railway.

I am familiar with most provinces in Vietnam (I’ve been keeping track of every province I have been to), but I had to look up Lai Chau and Son La Provinces.

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