Work on Vietnam's first subway begins in Ho Chi Minh City

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Construction of Vietnam's first metro system started in Ho Chi Minh City August 28.

Ground was broken Tuesday for Vietnam's first metro system in Ho Chi Minh City.

Japan's Sumitomo and Cienco 6, a construction company belonging to the Transport Ministry, will build the 19.7-kilometer route that will have 2.2 kilometers of track and three stations underground.

The project, expected to be completed in 2018, will link Ben Thanh Bus Station in the heart of the city to Suoi Tien Theme Park on the border with Binh Duong Province, passing through Districts 1, 2, 9, Binh Thanh, and Thu Duc and parts of Binh Duong's Di An District.

There will be a station at Thao Dien, an emerging urban area in District 2.

The metro has been in the works since 2005, but Le Hong Ha, deputy head of the HCMC Urban Railway, told Tuoi Tre that financial problems had delayed it.

He said it would become the main mode of public transport, replacing buses that operate 5,000 trips on the route daily.

The metro is expected to carry around 186,000 passengers a day initially, 620,000 by 2020, and more than one million in 2040.

A train would leave Ben Thanh station every five minutes and take around half an hour for the trip, Ha said.

Le Hoang Quan, the city chairman, said at the groundbreaking ceremony that the metro would reduce traffic jams, improve the transport network, and raise the quality of life for residents.

"Its success will be important for the construction of later metro lines," he said. The city plans to have six lines in all, and Hanoi eight.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency will provide nearly US$900 million for the $3 billion project.

Yasuaki Tanizaki, the Japanese ambassador to Vietnam, said Japan is committed to helping HCMC become a leading city in Southeast Asia.

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