Mekong Delta bridge set to open in months, after years of waiting

By Cuu Long   December 13, 2018 | 04:31 pm GMT+7
Mekong Delta bridge set to open in months, after years of waiting
Vam Cong Bridge in Vietnam's Mekong Delta is expected to be open to traffic mid next year and replace local ferries. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long

A key bridge that developed a serious crack even before opening could open to traffic next year.

Contractors have completed 70 percent of the repair work on the Vam Cong Bridge, a major link to the Mekong Delta, and would complete the remaining 30 percent this month, said Le Kim Thanh, head of the Ministry of Transport’s Transport Engineering Construction and Quality Management Bureau.

He said Wednesday that welders from South Korea have been working on a new girder to replace the cracked one. "And then it will take three more months for the entire bridge to be completed."

In April next year, the project would be assessed, and by mid-2019, it would open to traffic, he said.

The Vam Cong Bridge stretches nearly three kilometers over the Hau River between Dong Thap Province and Can Tho City. The $271 million bridge was built with official development assistance from South Korea.

With construction beginning in September 2013, the bridge was initially set to open in late 2017, replacing local ferries, but a crack four centimeters wide and two meters long was detected at one of its girders in November that year due to stress concentration, residual stress and low welding quality.

The repairs repeatedly fell behind schedule. In October, the transport ministry ordered that the cracked girder be fixed by late this year so that the bridge would be ready for traffic by early next year.

Back then, the project’s main contractor, South Korea’s GS E&C, said it was facing financial difficulties as it had not been paid any value added tax refund or insurance for the project.

But the project’s investor, Cuu Long Corporation for Investment, Development and Project Management of Infrastructure (Cuu Long CIPM), a state-owned firm managed by the ministry, said repair work has been delayed because the South Korean contractor "did not take drastic enough measures" and "was not active enough."

Transportation in the area has depended on ferries for years and with increasing travel demand, especially during special occasions like holidays and rush hours, traffic jams typically last many hours at the wharf.

The public have been waiting year after year for the Vam Cong Bridge to be completed.The project was first scheduled to open ahead of last Tet Lunar New Year holiday, and then to the upcoming one in early February 2019. The new reopening date for mid-2019 has not been fixed.

Once complete, the bridge will play a key role in traffic circulation in the region because most transportation within the Mekong Delta and between the Mekong Delta and the outside world will be made through this section of the Hau River, a branch of the Mekong River in Vietnam.

 
 
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