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Why the HCMC metro line is not yet on track

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The main factor in this prolonged delay has been the inability of stakeholders to anticipate problems, identify solutions and implement them in a timely manner.

Work began on Metro Line No. 1, the first such project in Ho Chi Minh City, in August 2012. It was to be completed in six years.

The line, which stretches 19.7 km between Ben Thanh Market in District 1 and Suoi Tien Theme Park in Thu Duc City, has raised high hopes of opening a new mode of transportation in common and to solve travel needs from the city center to the east of the city. bridge.

The project was also seen as a basis for the development of other metro lines, but 10 years later it is still unfinished and the city hopes it will be operational next year.

A subway train is installed on the tracks of Long Binh depot in Thu Duc city of HCMC in 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Financial hiccups have been a major part of the project’s hiccups to date. To move the project forward, HCMC had to extract funds from its budget to make advance payments more than once so that the investor, HCMC’s Managing Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR), could pay contractors and staff.

The delay in the disbursement of capital for the project results from adjustments made to the total project investment.

At the time the city approved the project (2007), the project cost over 17 trillion VND ($743 million), which meant that it did not have to be approved by parliament, the National Assembly .

However, two years later, its cost was increased to VND47.3 trillion, including VND41.8 trillion in official development assistance (ODA) from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The then Prime Minister authorized the city to adjust the total project investment in 2011, but with the new cost, the project had to be approved by parliament.

It was not until 2019 that the National Assembly approved the new investment estimate for the project, reducing the proposed sum from over VND 3 trillion to VND 43.7 trillion. Without NA approval, the central government could not allow the city to access ODA loans.

Lack of funds had prompted the project’s consultant, NJPT, a consortium led by Japan’s Nippon Koei, to suspend several services, including a training course for metro drivers and staff that it was to organize in conjunction with Vietnam Railway. Hanoi College. . He had no money to pay teachers and the school, the consortium said.

Technical issues

Apart from the financial difficulties, the construction process of Metro No. 1 encountered several technical problems which affected the progress of the project.

In October 2020, it was discovered that one of the laminated elastomer bearing pads had fallen from its position between two beams on the elevated section of Thu Duc town.

These bushings are made from high purity elastomers that encapsulate internal layered steel reinforcement plates and are designed for use in bridge and building construction for girder support. The incident was detected after cracks were observed along the raised section.

Then, in January last year, while inspectors were investigating the problem, it was discovered that another pad had moved out of position. Later in the year, four more platelets had deviated.

Shortly after, the contractor, a consortium including Vietnam’s Civil Engineering Construction Corporation No. 6 (Cienco 6) and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation, said it solved the problem, but did not specify how and why the buffer had fallen and deflected and what were the impacts. would be on the life and security of the project.

Late last year, investor MAUR proposed that JICA, which is funding the project, have an additional independent consultant to ensure objectivity when investigating the beam defects. So far, it is unclear whether such a consultant has been appointed.

Personnel issues

Another impediment to moving the project forward was a human resources crisis.

Between 2018 and 2019, 55 people from MAUR, including its director Le Nguyen Minh Quang and deputy director Hoang Nhu Cuong, quit their jobs, citing personal reasons. The city then assigned Bui Xuan Cuong, director of the municipal transport department, to work as the head of the board of directors to continue the project.

And at that time, the appearance of the Covid-19 applied major brakes.

According to MAUR, due to the pandemic, Vietnam has tightened border controls; and therefore, Japanese experts could not travel to Vietnam; and the import of construction materials has been interrupted.

Then, during the fourth outbreak last year, HCMC imposed citywide social distancing for four months from May to September, which led to further delays.

In the latest move, HCMC chairman Phan Van Mai last week signed a decision to resume work with the metro line’s consultancy unit, NJPT, so the project can proceed.

He called on the project’s investor, MAUR, to speed up progress and prevent the project from falling behind schedule again.

Vo Kim Cuong, former deputy chief architect of HCMC, said that since the No. 1 subway line was the first such project in the city, many policies and regulations had to be adjusted at various times, and that was a lesson that must be learned well, in order to avoid similar mistakes for other metro lines still under construction.

HCMC plans to build eight metro lines over a total of 220 kilometers.

Shopkeepers in downtown Saigon await reopening as metro construction site cleared

Traders on Le Loi Street in HCMC, a major commercial area, are eagerly awaiting the removal of the barriers put in place for the construction of the No. 1 metro line to revive their business. Video by VnExpress/Tuan Viet