Saigon pushes 2021 deadline for metro line despite uncertain contractors

By Huu Cong   March 14, 2019 | 05:32 am PT
Saigon pushes 2021 deadline for metro line despite uncertain contractors
Part of the half-finished first metro line of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa
HCMC authorities want the long-delayed metro line to be up and running in 2021 although contractors are not sure.

The city's vice chairman Tran Vinh Tuyen and Party secretary Nguyen Thien Nhan said Wednesday that the project has to be completed by the end of 2020 and start commercial operations early in 2021.

The officials said this at a meeting with the city's the Management Authority for Urban Railways, which is implementing the project.

Tuyen said the decision was made although the contractors were not certain.

Ho Chi Minh City’s first subway line, running 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Ben Thanh to Suoi Tien through Districts 1, 2, 9, Binh Thanh, and Thu Duc and the neighboring Binh Duong Province is a "very important project," Nhan said.

"Every beginning is difficult," Nhan said. "We have to succeed with the first metro line... and then the following routes will get easier," Nhan said

HCMC plans to boost its public transport system with six major metro lines, and a couple of tramway and monorail routes.

Party Secretary Nhan asked the railway management board to have an encompassing goal and a time frame for having all the routes operational, which would require learning about investment models and metro operations in other countries, including their economic efficiency, so that it could be applied in Saigon.

A metro system is only effective when it forms a system of many interconnected routes. With the current progress, it will take at least 30 years to complete the metro system as planned, he noted.

"The City People's Committee and the Management Authority for Urban Railways should consult with different countries that have complete metro systems, find out what mechanisms they have to speed up the construction of metro lines. Or request World Bank to organize seminars to seek financial resources to build urban railways," Nhan said.

The city also suggested that the board study the exploitation of land along metro routes, because many experts believe that if this is done properly, it will be a resource to re-invest in the metro lines.

HCMC earlier this month asked the prime minister for an advance of $92 million to pay for work done on its first metro line.

The city needs over VND2.15 trillion ($91.78 million) to pay dues relating to construction of the metro line, including payment for work already done by Japanese contractor Sumitomo Corporation.

Work started on the first metro line in August 2012, and so far, 60 percent of the project has been completed.

The project’s demand to sanction an increase in cost from VND17.4 trillion ($747.6 million) to VND47.3 trillion ($2 billion) was approved in January.

HCMC, home to 13 million people including migrants, has been struggling to deal with worsening traffic congestion for years.

The number of personal vehicles has been booming with 7.6 million motorbikes and 700,000 cars on the roads, while public transport is woefully underdeveloped.

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