HCMC at risk of being short-staffed to run metro line

By Gia Minh   April 7, 2023 | 02:23 am PT
HCMC at risk of being short-staffed to run metro line
Engineers inside the Opera House underground station of HCMC's metro line No.1, March 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The operator of Ho Chi Minh City's (HCMC) Metro Line No. 1 said it might not be able to hire enough staff to run the project due to a lack of funds.

Writing to the Ministry of Finance recently, HCMC Urban Railway Co. No. 1 (HURC1), the operator, said it cannot afford to pay salaries for 706 staff that will be needed to run the metro line, the first of its type in Ho Chi Minh City, which is very much anticipated after years of delays due to multiple reasons.

A wholly state-owned firm, HURC1 was established in 2015 based on the initial plan for the metro line to be up and running in 2018.

At the time of its establishment, the company, managed by the city administration, the People’s Committee, was granted a charter capital of VND14 billion (US$613,000) to purchase office equipment but it had no operating budget.

With the project dragging on for so long, the company had had already used up the charter capital in August, 2021.

What is worse is that it also owes workers salaries and insurance fees; the debt currently stands at VND6.7 billion.

Having received no payment for several months, 21 out of 36 HURC1 staff have quit in the past two years, the People's Committee said.

According to the plan to establish the company and the agreement between the Vietnamese government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which funds the project, before the line is operational, HURC1 would have no revenue, and therefore the city must allocate a budget to ensure its operation. Once the line operates, HURC1 would start earning revenue.

However, as construction fell far behind schedule, the company ran out of funds.

Meanwhile, in order to operate and maintain the metro line once it is completed, HURC1 will need as many as 706 employees.

Metro line No. 1 costs 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.

After several delays, the project was set to be completed at the end of 2021 and enter commercial operations this year but was delayed again due to the impact of the pandemic.

It is now nearly 94% complete and expected to start operation later this year.

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