The railway system in Vietnam is operated by the state-owned Vietnam Railways (Đường sắt Việt Nam). The principal route is the thousand-mile single track North-South Railway line, running between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. This was built at the metre gauge in the 1880s during the French colonial rule. There are also standard gauge lines running from Hanoi to the People’s Republic of China, eventually leading to Beijing, and some mixed gauge in and around Hanoi.
Notwithstanding the poor state of the country’s road network, the railway system does not make a great contribution to the national transport infrastructure, carrying only about 7% of all freight. The 30 to 40-hour passenger trip between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is undertaken by few, although visitor resorts such as Huế, Hội An, and Nha Trang lie along the route and generate some tourist traffic. Following the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1978 some travel restraints are still in place in the border region and the usage of the lines north and east of Hanoi is curtailed as a result. The Ho Chi Minh City–Hanoi line is poorly maintained and the engineering infrastructure, much damaged by war, has even now received only temporary repair in many places. In addition, the center of the country is subject to violent annual flooding and bridges are often swept away, causing lengthy closures.
Vietnam Railways also planned a 1,630-kilometre (1,013 mi) high-speed standard gaugelink from its capital Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south, capable of running at 250 to 300 km/h (155 to 186 mph). The funding of the $33 billion line was to come mostly from the Vietnamese government, with the help of Japanese aid. The current single track line has journey times from just under thirty hours, and initially this would be cut to less than nine hours. From there, a speedup to 5 hours (300 km/h/186 mph max) by 2025 is planned. The Vietnamese prime minister has set a target to complete the line by 2013, three years sooner than the previously announced nine year construction time. In May 2010, this plan was rejected by the government.