It's even worse than that. Vietnam (yes, THAT Vietnam) is looking at
building high-speed rail.
HANOI (Kyodo) Vietnam has decided to adopt Japan's bullet-train system
for a high-speed rail link, officials knowledgeable about the
situation revealed Friday.
Vietnam's decision was delivered to Japan when Prime Ministers Nguyen
Tan Dung and Yukio Hatoyama met on the sidelines of the first summit
between Japan and five Mekong-region countries in Tokyo in early
November, the officials said.
Vietnam's Parliament is expected to officially decide on the project
next May, they said.
However, Vietnam may face difficulty in starting the project as the
country has yet to work out concrete steps to procure the funds.
Construction of a bullet-train system of this size, running through
Vietnam north and south, is estimated to cost at least ¥5 trillion.
Currently, development loans from Japan and other international aid
agencies are being considered, they said. But whether Tokyo should
provide loans for the project is under question within the government
because the railways's business feasibility is uncertain.
According to Hanoi's blueprint of the high-speed railway system, the
Japan International Cooperation Agency will be consigned research work
before the specifics of the project take shape.
Tentatively considered are a 280-km section between Hanoi and Vinh,
the capital of Nghe An Province, and another 380-km section between
Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang, the capital of Khanh Hoa Province.
According to Japan's transport ministry, the format of shinkansen
technology can save construction and maintenance costs compared with
rival TGV and ICE railways. One reason is that support structures
along the tracks, such as tunnels, are smaller, the ministry said,
adding that antiquake specifications are also superior to its rivals.
Given the global concerns over climate change, many countries want
energy-efficient railway systems so they can reduce carbon-dioxide
emissions. The transport ministry has set up a special section to help
promote bullet-train technology overseas.
"We will pursue this course with all our might, because this will
strengthen Japan's economic growth," a ministry official said.
Regarding the Vietnamese project, South Korea has also shown interest
in taking part, industry sources said, adding that South Korean
President Lee Myung Bak informally conveyed Seoul's interest when he
visited Vietnam in October.
I know that South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand are either considering
or building high-speed rail.
Yesterday, several readers of the online NY Times responded to David
Brooks' assertion that the U.S. has a higher standard of living than
Europe by noting that whenever they came back to the States from
Europe or East Asia, they noticed how shabby everything looks here.