One last section keeps Hanoi – China border expressway incomplete

By Doan Loan   June 10, 2020 | 08:29 pm PT
One last section keeps Hanoi – China border expressway incomplete
Vehicles travel on the Bac Giang - Chi Lang Expressway, which is part of a network connecting Hanoi with the northern border. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Duy.
Construction of an expressway section that will ease travel between Hanoi and the China border has stalled due to lack of funds.

The 43-kilometer Huu Nghi – Chi Lang section in the northern province of Lang Son was approved by the government in 2016 at a cost of VND8.7 trillion ($376 million).

To run between the Huu Nghi Border Gate and Chi Lang District, it is to be linked with the existing Bac Giang – Chi Lang Expressway to connect Hanoi with the border.

As Huu Nghi is a key border gate between Vietnam and China, the section could improve trade and economic activities in the northern region.

The government had earlier planned to use official development assistance (ODA) funding for the project, but in 2018 it decided to use both public and private funding to avoid raising public debt, eyeing to complete it by this year.

While the Bac Giang – Chi Lang Expressway was completed last year, work on the 43-kilometer section linking it with the border has not begun since the firm building it, BOT BGLS-HN. Jsc, has struggled with funding.

Phan Van Thang, CEO of the private company, said the bank it approached, BIDV, refused to lend due to the large amount involved.

The price tag has increased by 5 percent since 2016 to VND9.2 trillion ($397 million) now, he said.

The company, province and bank have agreed on a solution to reduce the cost. Originally meant to have four lanes throughout, it will now have only two lanes for 16 kilometers.

This will reduce the cost by 35 percent to VND5.9 trillion ($255 million).

But BIDV, of which the state is holding a majority stake, will only lend VND2 trillion ($86 million), or 34 percent of the project.

Lang Son Province could provide VND1 trillion ($43 million), but the remaining VND2.16 trillion ($93 million) – the bank agreed to lend if the company manages to raise at least VND3.16 trillion ($136 million) -- has to come from the government.

The province made a request last month, but it has not been approved yet.

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