Ministry suspends official for poor highway quality

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The Vietnamese transport ministry Monday suspended the official managing the country's first cars-only expressway after its poor quality allegedly caused many accidents since it opened to traffic almost two years ago.

The charges have not been spelled out, but Minister Dinh La Thang has ordered related agencies to investigate the culpability of La Chi Duc in the agency's failure to build and maintain the Trung Luong highway to good enough quality.

The 39.8-kilometer expressway runs from Ho Chi Minh City to the neighboring province of Tien Giang.

Since opening to traffic temporarily in February 2010 portions of the road have kept sinking, causing hundreds of potholes. At other places it has pushed upwards, causing speed bumps and making it extremely risky for motorists.

Sure enough, more than 6,600 accidents had occurred by June 20 this year in which 18 people were killed and dozens others were injured.

The Long An Province Traffic Safety Council had even proposed criminal charges against the builder, the Cuu Long Corporation for Investment, Development and Project Management of Transportation Infrastructure (Cuu Long CIPM), Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Thang has ordered Cuu Long CIPM, Duc's agency, to "carefully review" and clarify the responsibilities of everyone involved and name a replacement for Duc.

It has to report to the ministry along with proposed punishments by November 30.

The newspaper quoted Duong Tuan Minh, director general of Cuu Long CIPM, as saying his agency did not have enough money to repair or maintain the road.

"By July 31 the repairs and maintenance budget ran out, while we owe VND980 billion (US$46.6 million) to our contractors," Minh said.

Built at a cost of nearly VND10 trillion ($485.12 million), the road allows vehicles to travel at a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour, halving the traveling time between the two destinations.

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