300 more staff needed to run HCMC metro line

By Gia Minh   June 3, 2023 | 07:45 pm PT
300 more staff needed to run HCMC metro line
A train of metro line No. 1 during a trial run in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The operator of the first metro line in Ho Chi Minh City is short of 300 workers as it has run out of cash, which could delay its commercial operation.

Although metro line No. 1 is set to be completed by the end of this year and begin commercial operation next year, its operator, HCMC Urban Railway No. 1 Co. Ltd. (HURC1), has been out of cash for two years.

The company was established by HCMC in 2015 with a charter capital of VND14 billion (US$596,000), and further funding was meant to be sourced from the metro line when operated.

But as operations were delayed from the earlier plan of 2018, HURC1 had exhausted its financial resource by August 2021.

Since then, its workers have not been paid. The company cannot even pay for utilities at its headquarters and therefore had to borrow meeting rooms from the metro line developer.

HURC1 now owes over VND1.3 billion in employee insurance, not including their salary. It has recently proposed to borrow VND16 billion from the city’s coffers to pay for expenses by September this year.

Over 700 people are needed to operate metro line No. 1. Nearly 400 of them are conductors, station staff and technicians, while the rest of them work in the headquarters and maintenance department.

"Recruiting all employees so they can be trained by Japanese contractors is a requirement for the project to be completed," said a representative of the project developer, confirming that if the staff shortage stays unchanged the line cannot begin commercial operation.

HCMC has earlier asked the government for VND268 billion in funding, but as the company has not made any revenue, it is not considered an effective state-owned company and therefore the request has not been approved.

Transport expert Phan Le Binh said that authorities need to find a way to fund HURC1 to speed up commercial operation.

Chu Cong Minh, a member of the HCMC Urban Traffic Advisory Council, said that many have been employed by the company in the past but they had left due to receiving no pay.

Metro line No. 1 is to cost over VND43.7 trillion and spans around 20 kilometers, stretching from Ben Thanh Station in District 1 to Long Binh Depot in Thu Duc City. It is now around 94% complete.

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