A 45,000 sq.m underground structural cluster including a terminal for metro systems and a trade center will be built underneath Le Loi Street and the Ben Thanh Market Square in Ho Chi Minh City 's district 1.

The project, jointly set up by the city's Municipal Management Authority for Urban Railway (MAUR) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), promises to create a new face for the southern economic hub.

Le Khac Huynh, deputy director of MAUR, said the cluster will start operations in 2017, at the same time as the Metro Line 1 and Line 2.

The terminal, built 40m underground, will consist of two parts: three storeys for four metro systems – the first floor for Line 1 and 3A, the second for Line 2, and the third for Line 4. These will be surrounded by retail shops.

A trade centre covering 25,500sq.m will be located underground along Le Loi Street .

Besides taking full advantage of underground space, the trade centre aimed to provide comfortable services for metro passengers, Huynh said.

He said profits earned from the center will be used to cover investment costs of the metro lines.

"This model has been applied successfully in many countries worldwide, including Japan," Huynh said.

According to MAUR, total cost for the cluster could reach 900 million USD, 429 million USD of which will be for the terminal and 479 million USD for the trade centre.

After the project is approved by the Government, the city will call for investment from private investors and proceed with procedures to obtain loans from Japan 's ODA fund.

Construction will be split into several phases. The terminal for Metro Line 1 and Line 2 will be built in Phase 1. The surrounding shops and terminals for other metro lines will be completed in Phase 2. The underground space for the trade centre, which will stand above the Metro Line 1, will be prepared first. The centre will be built when sufficient funds are available.

The construction will have a major impact on existing underground structures. However, MAUR said the city People's Committee will directly provide "proper" instructions on the relocation of underground systems, including electricity, water, and telecommunication infrastructure.

Work on Metro Line 1, running from Ben Thanh Market (District 1) to the Suoi Tien Area (District 9), is scheduled to begin on August 28. It will have 14 terminals, three of them underground.

Besides the Metro Line 1, the city plans six metro lines. These are: the 20-km Line 2 from Thu Thiem Pennisula (District 2) to the Tay Ninh Bus Station (District 12); the 23-km Line 3A and Line 3B from Ben Thanh Market (District 1) to Tan Kien and from Cong Hoa Crossroads (Tan Binh District) to Hiep Binh Phuc (Thu Duc District); the 24-km Line 4 from Nguyen Van Linh to Ben Cat Bridge (District 12); the 17-km Line 5 from Sai Gon Bridge (Dist 2) to Can Giuoc Bus Station (District 8); and the 6-km Line 6 from Ba Queo (Tan Binh District) to Phu Lam (District 6).-VNA