Hanoi elevated railway project under fire for delays, ballooning costs

By Mai Ha, Thanh Nien News

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The Cat Linh-Ha Dong elevated railway project. PHOTO: NGOC THANG
Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has ordered the Ministry of Transport and the Hanoi government to determine who is to blame for the slow progress railway project funded mostly by Chinese money.
Hai said the delays have added US$339 million to the project's cost.
The Cat Linh-Ha Dong elevated railway project was first scheduled to break ground in August 2008 and finish in November 2013.
The project's initial estimated (in 2008) was $552 million.
China provided $419 million in Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the remainder came from Vietnam's state budget.
State-owned Vietnam Railways was tasked with overseeing the project, while China Railway Sixth Group Co. Ltd. – a Chinese state-owned enterprise – was assigned to be the main contract, providing the project's engineering, procurement and construction (EPC).
The project broke ground in October 2011.
The 13-km of elevated track was planned to stretch from Cat Linh Street to Yen Nghia Bus Station in Ha Dong District making stops at 12 stations. 
The train, once finished, is expected to run at a maximum speed of 80 kph.
Although the central and municipal governments repeatedly asked the developer to finish site clearance by late 2013, three of the 13 kilometers have yet to be cleared.
The delay boosted site clearance costs from $37.57 million to $62.63 million, according to the Railway Project Management Unit.
Late last year, the Chinese contractor asked the investor to up the projected cost of the project, from $552 million to $891 million.
The Ministry of Transport recently responded by seeking government approval on the requested funds while, at the same time, blaming rising material costs, last minute design changes and a lack of competence on the part of the Chinese contractor for the ballooning costs.
The deadline for the project has been pushed back once again and the railway is now scheduled to come into operation in June 2015.
Asked why the ministry chose a Chinese contractor with no experience in delivering EPC, Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Hong Truong said it was a mandatory condition stated in the ODA loan agreement that Vietnam signed with China.

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