Vietnam's largest city has embarked on a metro programme to combat problems being magnified by rapid urban expansion. Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer.
Siemens is a potential supplier to the various lines included in the large HCMC project. Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer.
Experienced light rail and metro supplier Alstom is already established in the Vietnam rail market. Credit: manhhai / Flickr.

Ho Chi Minh City Metro is Vietnam’s first rapid transit network that will serve the business and financial hub, Ho Chi Minh City.

The metro project will have eight lines. Lines 1, 2 and 5 are in the implementation stage while the remaining lines are in the investment preparation stage.

Estimated to cost approximately $2.491bn, Line 1 is currently under construction with completion scheduled for December 2021. Construction work of Metro line 2 began in 2015 and is scheduled to commence in 2026. The total investment for Line 2 is estimated at $6.26bn while lines 3a and 3b are expected to cost $4.89bn.

Construction work for $4.29bn Line 5 is expected to last from 2025 to 2029 and is projected to be operational in 2030. Line 6 is estimated to cost $1.33bn.

Need for the Ho Chi Minh City Metro

Constituted in 1976, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has emerged from a modern history including colonial rule and war to become one of south-east Asia’s fastest growing economies (6.23% GDP growth in 2008), with unexploited reserves of coal, iron ore and oil. There has been rapid and continuing growth of the two dominant cities, capital Hanoi (pop. approx 6.4 million) in the north and, around 1,100km to the south, the largest settlement and economic centre, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon, approx 8 million in the metropolitan area).

Contrasting with important trading partner Germany, a country with a very similar size and population, railway transport has played only a minor part in Vietnam’s development. Almost two-thirds of the predominantly metre-gauge heavy rail network is accounted for by the line between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), and there is little rail application in urban transit.

However, consideration has turned from reliance on buses, although public transport use for city journeys has been as low as 5%, to creating a metro system to address the problems of congestion, protracted journey times and extreme pollution.

The latter is a particular problem due to the high use of motor scooters/bikes, an estimated four million around the city, and with increasing road use in general, the accident and casualty rate has further encouraged the case for rail.

Ten years into the formation of the current state, Vietnam loosened domestic economic controls and began supporting foreign investment in the country. Attracting interest from several countries, this process helped to create a substantial project for Vietnam’s first rail-based rapid transit system.


The Japan Bank for International Cooperation is providing 83% of the finance, the remainder coming from the HCMC municipal government.

The project is being funded by the Spanish Government, Asian Development Bank, European Investment Bank, Overseas Development Administration, and the German Development Bank KfW.

By March 2008, German interests in Vietnam’s future metro developments had also been strengthened following ministerial visits between the countries. There have been indications of financial support via the German public sector KfW Entwicklungsbank for later line projects.

Line 1

Line 1 of the project is 19.7km long and consists of a 2.5km-long underground section and a 17.2km elevated section. Line 1 will connect Ben Thanh Market in the central area to the amusement park at Suoi Tien in District 9. The line goes underground from Station 1 at Quach Thi Trang Roundabout area in Ben Thanh Market. It consists of two horizontally aligned two tunnels. After Station 3 at Ba Son the line shifts from underground to elevated. The underground section has a total of three underground stations. Line 1 also consists of a crossing at Saigon River.

The maximum speed of Line 1 will be 100km/h. The first train for the line was transported from Japan and arrived at Khanh Hoi port in October 2020.

Line 2

Line 2 of the project will be 48km long and will be divided into three phases. The 11.3km phase 1 will run between Ben Thanh Market and Tham Luong and will contain 11 stations.

Phase 2 will be 9.1km in length and will run between Ben Thanh-Thu Thiem section and Tham Lương- Tay Ninh bus terminal section. Phase 3 will be 28km and will run between Tay Ninh Bus Terminal-Tay Bac Urban Area.

Lines 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6

Line 3a will be 19.8km long and will run between Ben Thanh Market and Tan Kien Station. Line 3b is 12.2km and will run between Cong Hoa Roundabout and Hiep Binh Phuoc.

Line 4 will be 35.75km long and will begin from Lang Cha Ca traffic circle and end at Van Thanh Park in Binh Thanh district.

Line 5 will span 23.39km and is divided into two phases. Phase 1 will be 8.89km long and run between Bay Hien Intersection and Sai Gon Bridge. Phase 2 will be 14.5km long and run between Bay Hien intersection- New Can Giuoc Bus Station and Da Phuoc depot.

The route length for Line 6 will be 6.8km and it will run between Ba Queo in Tan Binh District and Phu Lam in District 6 with seven underground stations.


Ho Chi Minh City occupies a low-lying site 60km (37 miles) from the South China Sea coast, and difficult ground conditions are envisaged. Restrictions may need to be placed on building in the areas expected to be needed for the metro project. The start of construction was announced in February 2008, with work beginning on a $28m system depot in Long Binh Ward, District 9.

The tenders for construction were invited in 2008, and compensation and site clearance for the project was completed by 2009. Although system aspects are to be confirmed, the 1,435mm gauge will differ from the country’s other lines.

Line 1 is due to have 11 surface and three sub-surface stations, also related bus stations. There is a commitment to make the system accessible for users with physical disabilities and for bus routes to act as feeder services to rail. Planning indicates several interchange points on the system as later lines are opened.

Rolling stock

Six-car trains are to be deployed with a target daily loading of 162,000 passengers. An end-to-end time of around 29 minutes is planned, with a train every five minutes through a 20-hour operational day.

Those with rapid transit experience who have expressed interest have included Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo Corporation (lead contractor for the Manila MRT-3 Phase 1 project) and two Europe-based companies who are already active in Vietnam, Alstom and Siemens.

Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries has also expressed its interest in providing locomotives and carriages for the project. Neighbouring China may also see opportunities with this emerging market.

The metro will utilise 17 Hitachi trainsets, the first of which was delivered in October 2020.

Signalling and communications

Signalling aspects are to be announced. Along with other potential suppliers, French company Alstom is already active in this area of the market through their work with Vietnam Railways on the existing rail system.

Contractors involved

The metro route’s consultant and designer is the Japanese Nippon Koei Group, who has maintained a presence in Hanoi since 1991.

Spanish consulting company Ardanuy Ingenieria won a feasibility study contract in October 2009 to provide solutions to build Line 4 of the eight-line project.

In April 2009, Spanish firm Idom Ingenieria Consultoria was awarded the contract to conduct feasibility studies for Line 5 and Line 6 of the metro. The two feasibility studies cost around $1.7m and were completed within a year.

GEV signed an agreement with Ho Chi Minh City’s Management Board of Urban Railway to construct phase one of Line 5 between Saigon Bridge and Bay Hien Intersection in September 2010.

The Sumitomo Cienco 6 joint venture was awarded a contract for the construction of the17km elevated section between Ba Son and Suoi Tien in August 2012.

Shimizu Maeda Joint Operation, Japan was awarded a $232m contract to build to a 2.5km underground section of Line 1 between Ben Thanh Market and Ba Son Shipyard.

Shimizu-Maeda Joint Operation selected Dextra’s concrete reinforcement and bar system solutions to minimise steel congestion in heavily reinforced areas.

Hitachi was awarded a contract to provide mechanical and electrical equipment including 17 train sets (51 cars) for Line 1 in June 2013.

Since March 2016, Fenix South East Asia (MGB Systems) worked with Hitachi Rail to provide requirements management services for 11 sub-systems for the first line of Ho Chi Minh City’s Metro.

The future

The HCMC transport master plan proposed eight further metro lines which, with Line 1, will approximate to 109km (68 miles). The same plan, which also included three monorail routes totalling 56.5km (35 miles), indicated completion of the schemes by 2020, by which time the population forecast is 13.5 million. With Ho Chi Minh City as Vietnam’s main economic centre, it remains to be seen if the earlier studies for rapid transit in the capital, Hanoi, will be revived in some form.