Train carriages are put onto the Cat Linh -Ha Dong Urban Railway track last month. Trial runs are scheduled to begin in October this year. (Photo: zing.vn)

Hanoi (VNA) – The Government has told the Ministry of Transport (MoT) to put the Cat Linh-Ha Dong urban railway into operation by the first quarter of 2018.

The project’s contractor has also pledged not to lag behind schedule any longer.

Originally slated to be finished two years ago, unresolved capital issues have hindered the progress of the capital’s first metro line, threatening to derail the project.

An additional loan worth 250 million USD, taken out four years ago due to cost overruns, has not received a greenlight for disbursement by the Export-Import Bank of China (Eximbank).

Le Kim Thanh, director of the Hanoi urban railway management board (MBR) under the MoT, said that negotiations with China’s Eximbank are underway to extend the preferential buyer’s credit loan agreements, as well as additional preferential agreements.

“This will no doubt impede the progress of the project. We are instructing the contractor and sub-contractors to mobilise their own financial resources to continue the project. However, it’s not easy,” Thanh said.

He said that the Vietnamese and Chinese partners expected to complete negotiations over extension of two preferential agreements by the end of this month, which will help accelerate the disbursement. “There will be no more setbacks,” he stated.

Explaining the reason for the requirement of 658 staff for a 13km railway, including 58 drivers, the project management board said the trains will run 18 hours a day, an equivalent of 2.5 shifts, dispelling public concern over the bloated figure.

Out of over 600 staff members, 400 are being trained in Vietnam while 200 have been sent to China since 2015 as per the agreement signed between the Vietnamese and Chinese governments. The 37 drivers sent to China are all key drivers whose training lasted nearly a year. Training costs are included in the project’s initial estimates, the board said.

The MBR also responded to media questions regarding some differences in the trains’ actual design compared to the models that were publicly polled. The train’s main colour is still green, windows and windshields are made from dark glass. Instructions and signs, as well as the control panel on the trains, will be available in both Vietnamese and English.

The Cat Linh-Ha Dong urban railway will have 12 stations and one depot area. Out of the initially projected investment of 552 million USD, 419 million USD (76 percent) were loans from China and the rest matching funds by the Vietnamese Government.

Construction started in 2011 but since then costs rose to 886 million USD, exceeding the original figure by 250 million USD, or a 160 percent increase.

Trial runs are scheduled to begin later this year, around October.-VNA