Saigon metro driver trainees asked to rejoin course

By Gia Minh   May 7, 2022 | 09:14 pm PT
Saigon metro driver trainees asked to rejoin course
A class to train drivers for metro line No.1 of Ho Chi Minh City at a campus of Vietnam Railway College in the city in 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh
A course to train drivers for HCMC’s metro line No.1 has reopened after the city decided to renew its contract with a Japanese consultant.

"Trainees have been invited to get back to classes and the course is expected to finish in a year," Nguyen Quoc Hien, deputy head of the HCMC Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR), the project investor, said Friday.

The course had opened in July 2020 at Vietnam Railway College to train 58 candidates aged 21-35 to drive trains on HCMC’s metro line No.1.

Set to last 15 months, the course was developed following a memorandum of understanding signed by three parties, the investor (MAUR), the consulting unit, NJPT, a consortium led by Japan's Nippon Koei and the college.

In December 2020, NJPT put the course on hold, citing payment default by the investor, which meant it could not pay the college.

It was reported that payments to teachers and the college could only be made after an appendix to the contract was signed by the investor and the consultant for the consulting service package.

This was not signed with investor MAUR saying it could not make the call to do so on its own. Higher authorities had to approve the signing of the appendix, it said.

MAUR had signed a contract with NJPT in 2007 for the consortium to undertake general consultancy for metro line No.1. It was based on the original schedule of the project being completed in 2015.

After several delays, the metro was rescheduled to be completed at the end of 2021 and begin commercial operations this year, but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed it further.

The delays had forced the investor and the consultant to add as many as 19 appendixes to their contract. The payment for the training course fell under Appendix no. 19.

It was only in April this year that the city decided to spend VND1.67 trillion ($73 million) on continuing the consultancy service, thereby enabling the investor to sign Appendix No.19 with the consultant consortium.

However, three trainees had quit after the course was suspended and the investor will recruit new trainees to ensure there is enough staff to run the metro, Hien said.

HCMC's first metro, with three underground stations and 11 on the surface, is set to cost over VND43.7 trillion ($1.89 billion). It runs 19.7 kilometers to connect Ben Thanh Market in District 1 with Suoi Tien Theme Park in Thu Duc City.

The line is more than 90 percent complete and expected to begin running at the end of 2023.

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