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Bridge collapse cuts north-south rail link

March 21, 2016 | 02:08 am PT
Thousands of train passengers are being transported by bus between Saigon Station in Ho Chi Minh City and Bien Hoa Station in Dong Nai Province after the vital rail link was cut off due to the collapse of the Ghenh Bridge.

Bien Hoa Station is now the southern-most terminus for the 1,800-kilometer national railway line after the collapse of the bridge spanning the Dong Nai River on Sunday morning.

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A foreign tourist on her way to Ho Chi Minh City waits for a bus connection at Bien Hoa Station on March 20. Photo: VnExpress

The 220-meter-long bridge, built over 100 years ago during the French colonial period, collapsed after being struck by an 800-tonne barge carrying sand from the Mekong Delta. There were no reported casualties.

The pilots of the barge, Tran Van Giang (36) and Nguyen Van Le (28), were arrested a day after fleeing the scene of the incident.

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The two middle spans of the Ghenh bridge were destroyed after being hit by the sand barge on March 20. Photo: VnExpress

Hundreds of passengers travelling from the northern and central regions of the country to Ho Chi Minh City packed Bien Hoa Station on Sunday evening, waiting for buses that were hastily scheduled to transport them the remaining 31 kilometers to their destination.

Among them were the 425 passengers of the SE7 train which arrived at the station at 3:25 p.m. Many of the passengers were elderly or were traveling with small children, and had to struggle with their luggage given the limited concierge staff available to assist the swelling number of travelers. 

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A woman and her grandchild, from the northern province of  Bac Giang, waiting for a bus to Ho Chi Minh City on March 20. Photo: VnExpress

No quick fix

The Ghenh Bridge is used for both road and rail transport, with lanes set aside for two-wheeled vehicles and pedestrians.

The collapse of the bridge will affect all north-south trains, and will take at least five to six months to reconstruct, a railway official told VnExpress.

Ho Nai Station in Trang Bom District, which is around 10 kilometers away from Bien Hoa, will also provide support facilities for transiting passengers.

Do Quang Van, branch director of Saigon Railway Transport Company, which manages Saigon Station, said the firm expected around 1,500 passengers to arrive from central and northern regions on Sunday.

By Sunday afternoon, some 350 north-bound travelers were transported to Bien Hoa Station by buses that would, in turn, bring south-bound passengers back to Ho Chi Minh City, he said.

Van recommended anyone planning to travel the route in the coming weeks should bring only minimal luggage, and those wishing to cancel their tickets could do so without incurring a fee.

According to Van, Saigon Station will continue to sell tickets as usual, but overall travel times were likely to be extended due to the bus trip to Bien Hoa Station.

 
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