The long-delayed, Chinese-funded Cat Linh-Ha Dong urban railway line in Hanoi whose workload has remained 99 percent complete for over one year must be put into commercial operation this year, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has demanded.
In a document sent to ministries, ministry-level agencies, government units, provincial and municipal administrations, and the National Traffic Safety Committee, the government leader asked relevant bodies to speed up the progress of key transport infrastructure projects, including the 13.5-kilometer Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line, the first of its kind in the Vietnamese capital city.
The others are North-South Expressway, Long Thanh International Airport in the southern province of Dong Nai, runway upgrades at Hanoi-based Noi Bai International Airport and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, and the third passenger terminal at Tan Son Nhat.
PM Phuc underlined the need for the commercial operations of the Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line to be launched this year.
All the obstacles to these projects should be made known to the central government and the lawmaking National Assembly for consideration, according to the prime minister.
The elevated railway runs from Cat Linh Station in downtown Dong Da District to Yen Nghia Station southwest of Ha Dong District.
The project saw its investment cost ballooning to VND18 trillion (US$868 million) from the initial estimate of VND8.7 trillion ($552.8 million).
Work on the railway began in October 2011 and was initially scheduled for completion in 2013.
However, several hurdles, including official development assistance (ODA) loan disbursement issues with China that were only resolved in December 2017, have stalled it for years.
The Ministry of Transport said in September 2019 that the project was unable to run commercially, and there was a high risk of a lengthy delay since the Chinese contractor — China Railway Sixth Group Co. Ltd. — had yet to follow the instructions of the ministry.
Late last month, the Chinese contractor demanded $50 million for the trial operation of the railway before handing over the project to Vietnamese authorities.
Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong said the demand would be rejected as it goes against the provisions of the project agreement.
Dong cited the agreement as saying that even if the contractor was fraught with financial difficulties, they would be obliged to run a trial operation.
Vietnam would not bear responsibility for any additional payment, the deputy minister noted, adding that the Southeast Asian nation had already paid 70 percent of the amount due for the project, while the rest will be settled before its handover.
The metro line allows for a maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour while the average speed of operation is 35 kilometers per hour, with trains running every few minutes.