Six years on, Saigon's first metro line nowhere near completion

By Huu Khoa   November 11, 2018 | 12:08 pm GMT+7

Set to open in 2017, then 2020, Saigon’s first metro line will not meet the delayed deadline either.

More than 50 percent of the project has been completed, but it has been constantly hampered by a lack of funds. This means the Ben Thanh-Suoi Tien metro line is unlikely to be completed by 2020 as scheduled.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion

Approved in 2005, Ho Chi Minh City's Ben Thanh-Suoi Tien Metro Line 1 will run 20 kilometers (12 miles) through the city's 1, 2, 9, Binh Thanh and Thu Duc districts, and the neighboring Binh Duong Province's Di An District.

Work on the line kicked off in August 2012 with a total investment of nearly VND50 trillion ($2.14 billion). It was initially scheduled to be put into operation in 2017. Land clearance issues and lack of funding have however pushed the scheduled completion date to 2020.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 1

The line, which runs parallel to Hanoi Highway in this photo, is currently over 50 percent completed but work remains slow, with many sections having very few workers on site.

According to Hoang Nhu Cuong, deputy head of the urban railway management board, the line's construction cost for this year is VND5 trillion ($214 million). Hanoi, however, has yet to disburse this fund as the project's adjusted total investment is still awaiting approval.

"The city has had to advance VND1 trillion to maintain progress. Contractors currently have completed workload worth VND2 trillion, but only VND220 billion ($9.43 million) has been paid due to legal procedural issues. The obstacles include the total investment not being approved yet by the National Assembly," Cuong said at a meeting with HCMC's National Assembly delegation last month.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 2

Starting at the city's iconic Ben Thanh Market, the line's first section is to run 2.6 kilometers underground past three stations. For this section, two 781-meter (854-yard) tunnels connecting Opera House Station and Ba Son Station have been built but their rail and lighting systems are yet to be installed as the Ba Son Station is still under construction.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 3

The line's second section will run on an elevated track supported by 4,536 U-shaped beams, each about 35 meters long and weighing 42 tons. Currently all of the beams have been completed but many parts still have no railway track.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 4

The project's management board began installing the railway track for the line's elevated section in October last year. The laying of each 150-meter segment of the track is estimated to take three days, so the entire 17-kilometer elevated section is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 5

In this photo, the Ben Thanh-Suoi Tien Metro Line 1 is seen to the right of Cat Lai Intersection in the city's District 2.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 6

The line's elevated section includes a total of 11 stations, each 140 meters long. The stations are designed to have natural ventilation systems, ensuring that they receive enough light and can withstand bad weather conditions. With the exception of Suoi Tien Station at the end of the line, each station is equipped with pedestrian bridges on both the north and south side, connecting them with Hanoi Highway.

Construction work on the stations was scheduled to be completed before this year's Reunification Day on April 30, but work is still ongoing.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 7

The project includes 5 bridges and overpasses running over the Saigon River and Hanoi Highway. On the right in this photo is the Saigon Metro Bridge, which runs parallel to the existing Saigon Bridge. With a length of 267.5 meters and width of 11.1 meters, the bridge has two lanes allowing metro trains to travel across the Saigon River in both directions, in and out of the city's downtown area.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 8

When completed, the Ben Thanh-Suoi Tien metro line is expected to help ease traffic congestion at Ho Chi Minh City's eastern gateway.

Six years on, Saigons first metro line nowhere near completion - 9

Work on many parts of the line, including this end section of the line next to New Eastern Coach Station in District 9, is being delayed by a lack of funds.

HCMC authorities have asked the National Assembly and the government to intervene on multiple occasions to ensure that the project gets the funding it needs. The city has already had to advance money to pay contractors four times so far.

Despite the city's efforts, the project's situation has not changed much. Metro Line 1 is unlikely to be completed by 2020 as scheduled, according to the city's Urban Railway Management Board.

The city's second metro line, running from Ben Thanh to Tham Luong, is also in the same boat. Its total investment has increased from $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion. As this new estimate is still awaiting the National Assembly's decision, HCMC can only approve the adjusted metro line 2 project by early next year at the earliest.

 
 
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