Published June 21, 2010
HANOI, Vietnam – HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnamese legislators rejected a proposed bullet train over its $56 billion cost — the assembly's first rejection of a major proposal submitted by the all-powerful Communist government.
The nearly 500-member assembly typically acts as a rubber stamp but voted over the weekend to deny plans for the high-speed rail project.
The $56 billion investment would have built a 975-mile (1,570-kilometer) track linking the capital Hanoi and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City by 2035.
A train trip that now takes 30 hours would have been cut to about six hours.
But ordinary Vietnamese could not afford the fares, and construction would equal about 50 percent of the country's gross domestic product, said Nguyen Minh Thuyet, a lawmaker from northern Lang Son province.
"I'm very glad that deputies have expressed their position," said Thuyet. "The move helped the country avoid an expected huge debt for an inefficient project."
He said it was the first time the assembly rejected a major proposal by powerful Communist leaders.
Senior economist Pham Chi Lan called the plan economically unsound.
"This project is too risky and too luxurious for Vietnam where we have many other things to do with agriculture, education, electricity and other transport projects," she said.
Some assembly members argued the bullet train would help promote tourism.
Lan said the project would not serve the country's majority where about 70 percent still live in rural areas.