Competent construction companies can now bid for road maintenance contracts this year, according to the Vietnam Road Administration (VRA) under the Ministry of Transport.

The acting general director of the VRA, Nguyen Duc Thang, said that the move would help ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the Road Maintenance Fund as well as improve maintenance quality.

Previously, road maintenance activities were usually assigned to State-owned companies.

At present, local transport departments across the country are reviewing the conditions of national highways running through their localities and submitting to the VRA lists of roads that are in need of maintenance in the next three years, according to Thang.

Meanwhile, the VRA is completing the necessary documents to call for bids on projects maintaining six national highways this year.

Next year, 30 percent of highways across the country are scheduled to be maintained through bidding contracts and by 2015, the maintenance activities for all national highways would be awarded through bidding.

At present, there are nearly 18,000km of national roads across Vietnam, of which over 3,400km of road are over 12 years old, 9,700km over eight years old and nearly 2,600km over four years old.

Each year, about 12 trillion VND (570 million USD) is needed to repair and maintain roads. However, this year, the country could manage only about 4 trillion VND (190 million USD) for road maintenance, and funding is expected to be reduced next year because of tightened public investment.

However, Thang said since public spending for transport construction was tightening, more investment for road maintenance would be a reasonable policy.

It was calculated that one dollar spent maintaining roads effectively could help save three dollars for transportation firms, thanks to savings in fuel, travelling time and the increased efficiency of vehicles. On the contrary, the shortage of funds for regular road maintenance could lead to degradation which could cost four times more to restore or build new roads.

Thang said that for years both central and local governments in Vietnam did not pay proper attention to road maintenance and funding, with these activities meeting less than 50 percent of demand.

Nguyen Xuan Lam, vice general director of Road Management for Region 2, which oversees 19 national highways in northern provinces, said that they always lacked funding for road maintenance and the fund was usually prioritised for seriously degraded roads.

At localities, funding for road maintenance from local budgets met only 20-30 percent of demand, he said.-VNA