Don’t be fooled. It’s the metro system in the capital which will be completed first, not the one in Saigon. Words by Nick Ross. Photo by Julie Vola
In recent months, much of the talk in this honourable medium has been on the Saigon Metro System. That we have placed such a focus on this infrastructure project should come as little surprise. The Saigon Metro — while years away — is having a disruptive effect on Downtown Saigon. Roads have been closed, transportation routes altered, and the lives of almost every central-living or working resident in the city have been affected. Now we hear it is over budget.
Yet just because the first phase of Hanoi’s Metro System (Duong sat do thi Ha Noi) avoids the Old Quarter and the area around Hoan Kiem Lake, meaning less comment in the public domain, this doesn’t mean it should be ignored.
Planned to be operational in advance of its cousin to the south, construction on Line 3 — which runs from Nhon to the Hanoi Railway Station — commenced in Sep. 2011. Work on Line 2A, from Cat Linh to Ha Dong, started in Jan. 2012. Both, according to previous estimates, ahem, ahem, they should be up and running by the end of the year.
But take a walk down Hao Nam Street and Hoang Cau and you’ll see giant unconnected pillars silhouetted against the skyline, as well as the occasional construction site. The new ETA is 2018.
Many reasons were cited for this year’s culling of century-old trees in Hanoi, one being the need to make way for stations on the metro system. The incident raised eyebrows and tempers.
But, for the Hanoi Metro System to both be constructed and carry its estimated 200,000 passengers a day, Vietnam’s capital needs to be transformed. And transformation takes time, especially in a city as historic as Hanoi.