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Hanoi Metro: Vietnam's first metro rail project on track [free access]

July 1, 2013

By 2020, Hanoi will boast of a fully operational, efficient high-speed metro rail. Two of the four metro lines covering over 50 km are under construction in Vietnam’s capital and the country’s second largest city. The project will increase the share of public transport, reduce congestion, and bolster local economic growth in the city. According to plans, the network should expand to over 170 km by 2030. 


Impetus for Hanoi Metro


Economic growth over the last 10 years, coupled with increasing population, has led to traffic congestion, an increase in accidents and air and noise pollution in Hanoi. The city’s gross domestic product (GDP) more than tripled between 2000 and 2010; during the same period, its population also leapt from 2.5 million to 6.5 million. With the closure of the tram system in 1991 and an inadequate and inefficient bus network as the only alternative, the proportion of private motorised transport has risen in the city. Private vehicles, mostly motorcycles, meet almost 90 per cent of the city’s transport demand.  Two-wheelers and cars have grown at annual compounded rates of 9 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.


The situation is expected to worsen by the end of this decade, if current population and economic growth trends continue. By 2020, Hanoi’s population is expected to cross the eight-million mark. The city is expected to grow economically at a record 11–12 per cent every year during 2016–20, leading to increased income and a higher share of population acquiring professional skills. Therefore, it is clear that Hanoi needs a transport solution that extends beyond an efficient bus service, specifically a rapid transit system with high frequency and capacity.


Recognising this, the Vietnam Ministry of Transport drafted a master plan for the city in 2008 to reduce the use of private transport and improve the urban environment. The plan includes the development of a rail-based, mass rapid transit system for the capital. The objective is to have public transport servicing 40 per cent of the transport demand, with metro rail accounting for a 10-15 per cent share.


It is estimated that, at the start of revenue service, the pilot route will transport over 150,000 passengers daily. According to studies financed by the French GEF, public transport development in Hanoi is expected to halve local polluting emissions by 2020. Energy consumption should fall by 30 per cent.


Scope and status


The planned network comprises four priority metro lines (1, 2, 2A, and 3) that will span over 52 km and consist of more than 34 stations. Table 1 provides the network details.


Table 1: Priority lines for Hanoi Metro Rail Project




Length (km)

No. of stations

Completion date


Giap Bat to Gia Lam, part of the Ngoc Hoi to Yen Vieh

Vietnam Railway Corporation


Not available



Nam Thang Long to Tran Hung Dao

Hanoi Urban Railway Project Group





Cat Linh to Ha Dong

Vietnam Railway Department





Nhon to Hanoi station

Hanoi Urban Railway Project Group










Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Line 2A has been under construction since January 2012. The China Railway Group has been employed to design and construct the line as well as supply equipment and material for the line. Trial runs are expected to begin in 2014, with operations in full swing in 2015.


Construction on Line 3, also a pilot route, began in September 2011. It was supposed to be the first line to become operational by 2015. However, latest reports suggest that this milestone may be achieved only by 2018. The 12.5-km pilot route, running from east to west of the city, includes an 8.5-km elevated section from the Nhon depot to Thu Le Park and a 4-km underground section from Thu Le to the Hanoi railway station. It will serve three centres of higher education, the Temple of Literature —the symbol of the city and an important site of historical interest – and Hanoi Railway Station, the terminus. The project manager, the Hanoi Metropolitan Rail Transport Project Board, has appointed the French group, SYSTRA, to take charge of the engineering of the line.


So far, four of the nine contracts have been awarded for Line 3. The remaining contracts will be awarded by early 2014. Physical work on the depot is underway and major works along the elevated section of the alignment are expected to begin in the second half of 2013.


Figure 1 provides the projected ridership on Hanoi Metro’s Line 3.


Figure 1: Projected ridership on Hanoi Metro’s Line 3


Source: Asian Development Bank


Works on Line 1 that has a completion deadline of 2019 are scheduled to begin in 2013. The tender announcement of the initial procurement package for international competitive bidding is due in July 2013.


Line 2 is due to be completed by 2018. However, to date, construction has yet to begin.


Donor assistance in financing


Hanoi’s metro system is being financed by a combination of government funding, as well as bilateral and multilateral development assistance.


Japan, through the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), is the primary donor of funds for Lines 1 and 2. JICA has extended a total of JPY19.3 billion for these two lines, which require a total investment of JPY136.48 billion.


France, through the French Treasury (Direction Générale du Trésor) and the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement), is the main financier of the USD1.08-billion Line 3 project. Together, these aforementioned agencies are covering 43.5 per cent of the total funds required for Line 3. In addition, ADB has offered a loan that constitutes 27 per cent of the funds, with the European Investment Bank providing around 9 per cent. Table 2 provides financing details of the pilot stretch.


Table 2: Financing of Line 3 — Hanoi Metro Pilot Stretch


Amount (USD million)

% share

Asian Development Bank



Agence Française de Développement



European Investment Bank



Direction Générale du Trésor



Vietnam Government






Source: Asian Development Bank


The Vietnamese Government is responsible for the remaining funds for Lines 1, 2 and 3.


In addition, construction of infrastructure that will ensure seamless and efficient transfers between existing travel options and the metro network and supporting policy framework has also been planned as part of ADB assistance. ADB is supporting a linked project that will improve pedestrian accessibility to stations and bus connectivity, and address key urban transport policy issues related to parking, traffic enforcement and transport pricing to promote public transport usage.


Line 2A has received the most of the funds from the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This line has an estimated cost of about USD552.86 million. Of this, around USD250 million have been extended as a preferential loan by PRC and around USD170 million as a credit incentive from PRC. The remaining amount is covered by the Vietnam Railway Department.


Rolling stock and technology


Line 3 has been designed to allow trains to run at a speed of up to 80 km/hr, with over 900 passengers per train. The entire route will be covered in 20 minutes. Initially, four-car trains will be used.


The rolling stock will fulfil certain design considerations. The required length, width, and height of each carriage will be 19-20m, 2.6-2.9m, and 3.8m, respectively. The platform height will be 0.9-1.15m. The track, as per the current industry norm, will be standard gauge (1,435 mm).


Power will be sourced from the third rail’s 750V DC supply system for the pilot route. Ten electricity transformer stations will be needed along the route, with one for the depot station; the total capacity will be 2,500 kW. The project is expected to generate a total electricity demand of 7,500 kW in 2010; this is projected to increase to 16,200 kW in 2030.


Issues and challenges


There are several challenges facing the metro development as Vietnam is building such systems for the first time. As metro systems have not been built in Vietnam previously, there is a lack of required skills for development and implementation. Policies for development of metro systems and the necessary institutional framework need to be put in place. There is also a need to develop/adopt relevant metro standards. In addition, action to strengthen the institutional set up needs to be taken.


Another key issue that will need to be addressed is co-ordination between relevant urban transport agencies. Such co-ordination will be required for the integration of the different transit systems serving the city and the integration of ticketing and fare systems. If left unaddressed, this issue can affect adversely the overall cost effectiveness of the new urban transport measures and possibly lowering the percentage of public transport users.


Moreover, the development of metro systems in dense urban areas faces several issues related to resettlement especially around stations and requires extra effort to mitigate its negative impact. 


A brand new commuter experience


The Hanoi metro rail system promises to change the face of urban transport in the city. Coupled with other transport projects currently underway – the development of a bus rapid transit system, the deployment of a common fare system for public transport, the construction a network of expressways linking Hanoi with other key cities, and improvements to the urban road infrastructure, the share of public transport is likely to increase. This is likely to improve commuter experience as well as air quality in the city,


(1 JPY [Japanese Yen] = 0.01 USD)