Southeast Asia's longest road tunnel to close within days of opening

By Doan Loan   January 14, 2021 | 08:00 pm GMT+7
Southeast Asia's longest road tunnel to close within days of opening
A view of the Hai Van Tunnel 2 connecting Da Nang and Thua Thien-Hue when it opened on January 11, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.
The Hai Van Tunnel 2 will close after briefly opening during Tet since the government has not invested its share of the cost, the private partner in the project said.

Following its opening on Monday, the tunnel connecting Thua Thien-Hue Province and Da Nang City will allow traffic for 20 days from February 1 before putting up the shutters.

Deo Ca Group JSC of HCMC, the private partner in the public - private partnership that built the tunnel, said it costs VND100 billion ($4.33 million) a year to operate the tunnel, but it faces financial issues since it has not received the government’s share of the VND8.52 trillion ($367 million) cost of construction.

This means it could not afford to keep the tunnel open after Lunar New Year, or Tet, it said.

Hai Van Tunnel 2 was envisaged as part of a public - private partnership (PPP) master plan along with three other tunnels in the central region at a total cost of VND21.61 trillion, with the government’s share being VND5 trillion.

The other three have been completed and opened to traffic, and the government duly paid its share of the cost of two of them.

Deo Ca Group said in 2017, after paying off the two, the government had VND1.18 trillion left under the master plan.

The government has not said why it has delayed payment or when the payments will be made.

Between the 20th of the 12th lunar month and the 10th of the new year, Vietnamese flock home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and major roads in the entire country would be gridlocked.

Hai Van Tunnel 2, at 6.2 kilometers (3.85 miles), the longest road tunnel in Southeast Asia, is meant to help reduce traffic in an existing tunnel 30 meters away.

Ngo Truong Nam, CEO of Deo Ca Group, said: "This is undesirable but we are waiting for authorities to [resolve] the finance issue."

Besides, the company was allowed to collect toll at six stations for 27 years, but has subsequently been told it cannot do so on the La Son – Tuy Loan Expressway in Da Nang because it is a publicly funded highway.

Nam said though "closing the tunnel would cause significant losses to the firm," there is no choice.

Last year the Ministry of Transport urged the government on several occasions to pay its share of the tunnel cost and an additional VND2.28 billion to make up for the toll the company could not collect on the La Son – Tuy Loan Expressway.

Nguyen Viet Huy, deputy head of the ministry's PPP investment project management department, said PPP projects must have financial support from the government to safeguard the benefits of all parties.

"Closing the tunnel is a loss to both the investor and the public."

He hoped the government would soon take on board the ministry’s recommendation and make payment to the company.

go to top