Vietnam’s billion-dollar highway cracks after opening

By Mai Ha, Thanh Nien News

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A crack on the Noi Bai - Lao Cai Expressway. Photo: Mai Ha A crack on the Noi Bai - Lao Cai Expressway. Photo: Mai Ha
A long crack has appeared on a brand new expressway connecting Hanoi to the rural northwest just a few days after it was opened to traffic; investors blamed the soft ground it was built upon.
The crack was discovered in a section between Yen Bai to Phu Tho province on the 245-km (152-mile) Noi Bai – Lao Cai Expressway, which drew a US$1.5-billion investment from the Vietnam Expressway Corporation (VEC).
The Ministry of Transport has instructed VEC to fix the crack and issue warnings those traveling on that portion of the highway.
According to VEC, the crack spans over ten meters and emerged in a section built over a rice paddy.
The company has announced that it is monitoring possible sinkage on the road.
An 'unexpected fault'
VEC said the damaged road was designed and built by the Keangnam Construction Company, which followed the proper protocols for surveying and treating the loose foundation.
According to Le Kim Thanh, deputy general director of VEC, the builder drilled 24 survey points along that stretch of road.
He said the crack was an “unexpected fault because it appeared in the middle of the street and not near a survey points.”
“It was affected by two strong typhoons and heavy rain. Flooded land in the surrounding area has accelerated the sinking," he added.
Thanh said it normally takes between several months and two years to monitor and repair those sections.
“The results of our survey will determine whether the sinkage is the result of natural causes or poor construction,” he said.
Cut corners and incompetence
The stretch of road being surveyed for sinkage (known as package A4) was completed in August following several delays and media reports of incompetence, shortcuts in equipment, money and personnel and shoddy subcontractor work.
By June, Keangnam had only completed a little over 70 percent of the package and the transport ministry had to mobilize other contractors to finish the job.
Nguyen Quang Toan, an associate professor of Hanoi Transport University, said a loose foundation can lead to sinkage while cracks can be caused by other reasons.
“The actual reason could be mistakes in surveying and design or poor-quality construction.”
“The builder must be held responsible for the damaged sections and the investor must also be held accountable also because it collects a toll,” he said.
The average car using the expressway pays around VND300,000 for a four seater. Traveling the full length of the highway costs VND1 million per vehicle.

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