There’s been lots of nay-saying floating around since ground broke on the long-anticipated Ho Chi Minh City metro system this past February. But cynics can’t deny the initial foreign investment is there. Three lines have international support, and two Japanese companies and one French firm are vying for rights to outfit the system with the latest railway technology.
The Japan Bank for International Co-operation will pump $905 million into the already-started first line in the six-line system, which will run from Ben Thanh Market to Suoi Tien Park in Thu Duc District. This flagship line will run underground between three stations in District 1 before emerging to connect the next 11 stations. Completion is set for 2014 to the tune of $2 billion total.
On the same day construction began on Line 1, the German government pledged $86 million to the estimated $1.2 billion price tag on Line 2, which will connect Districts 2 and 12. China Shanghai Corporation for Foreign Economic and Technological Cooperation has stepped in to conduct the feasibility study on a third line following what the Vietnamese government calls inadequate progress on the part of a Russian development consortium.
Over the first six years, the HCMC Urban Railway Authority expects 162,000 commuters to utilize the system, inclusive of six subway and three monorail and/or lightrail lines. The next decade-long phase of development between 2020 and 2030 aims to accommodate 635,000 passengers. 800,000 are anticipated to be riding the rails by 2040.
Whether or not the metro will coax the Vietnamese away from their motorbikes is yet to be seen, but the potential environmental benefits to this smog-choked city are encouraging.