Wednesday , May 29 2024

Without policy changes, 200 km of metro will take 100 years: HCMC leader


HCMC could take 100 years to complete the 200 km of metro routes it plans if policies are not changed, its chairman Phan Van Mai said.

He was alluding to the fact the city has not been able to complete 19.7 km of its first metro line after 16 years.

The southern metropolis came up with a plan 20 years ago to build 220 km of metro lines.

Work started on the first one on 2008, the 19.7-km line number 1 between District 1 and Thu Duc City.

It has yet to be completed, and after several delays the latest deadline for commercial operation has been set for July next year.

So, if all 220 km are to be built in the same manner, it would take 50-70 years, even 100, to complete, Mai said at a city meeting on Friday.

“This is way too slow and unacceptable.”

HCMC chairman Phan Van Mai speaks at a meeting on December 15, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

HCMC chairman Phan Van Mai speaks at a meeting on Dec. 15, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

A decision by the Politburo, the highest body in the Communist Party of Vietnam, in February, which requires HCMC to basically complete its metro network by 2035, is now the basis for the city to come up with new mechanisms, he said.

The city is studying how to build the remaining 200 km within one project and with a single policy mechanism.

Early next year the city would submit the project to the Politburo, Mai said.

“HCMC will coordinate with Hanoi to develop mechanisms for metro construction, mobilize capital and identify credit sources.”

Dang Huy Dong, director of the city’s Planning and Development Research Institute and a member of the city’s Advisory Council, a body that provides expert advice and recommendations on a wide range of public issues, said building 200 km is “unfeasible” under current legal regulations.

So a new mindset and breakthroughs in approach are needed based on lessons learned domestically and globally.

The Advisory Council put forward some proposals in this regard, all related to granting the city autonomy to make its own decisions.

The city must be allowed to make adjustments to its urban development and refurbishment plans, including to metro routes in combination with TOD (transit-oriented development).

It should be able to make the metro network plan along with TOD station area planning as a basis for auctioning TOD project development rights to create revenue for investing in the network.

It should have the authority to create land acquisition and compensation mechanisms including prices and resettlement, and be allowed to retain the revenues from auctioning TOD projects adjacent to the metro system instead of handing them over to the government.

The city should also be allowed to raise funds by issuing bonds at home and overseas, borrowing from financial institutions, obtaining foreign loans and funds from international green development funds for climate change, independent of the debt ceiling limit, for the metro construction.

The National Assembly should approve a single investment regime for all 200 km of the city metro in combination with urban development and TOD.

“With these mechanisms, the city will be able to quickly achieve the 200 km metro target, saving over US$10 billion [in the process],” Dong said.

A train of HCMCs metro line No.1 conducts a test run on elevated tracks through Binh Thanh District, August 29, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung

A train of HCMC’s metro line No.1 conducts a test run on elevated tracks through Binh Thanh District, Aug. 29, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung

Speaking at the meeting, renowned architect Ngo Viet Nam Son said metros are no longer just an issue pertaining to HCMC, and it has become necessary to develop the industry for building metros in other cities and towns.

“It is concerning that each metro line [in the city] uses a different technology.”

HCMC, the pioneer in metro development in the country, should persuade the government to choose a standard technology.

For now the city should focus on completing metro line No.1, he said.

A lot of work remains to be done even after it is completed, including developing the bus system, parking lots and commercial services, he pointed out.

“It may take another three or four years to complete line No. 1, but it will be a complete and stable framework for the remaining lines to follow.”

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