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Despite temperatures exceeding 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit), construction work buzzed in late April in Hanoi, Vietnam, at the site of the La Khe station on the Cat Linh-Ha Dong urban railway. Patiently waiting there, ready to work, was the first train made by China for use in Vietnam.
Stretching some 13 kilometers, the Cat Linh-Ha Dong rail line was designed to allow trains to run at 80 kilometers per hour. With a total investment of US$850 million, the project was contracted by China Railway Sixth Group Co., Ltd. (hereinafter Sixth Group) under the China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and built to meet Chinese technological standards in design, manufacturing, material supply, and services.
“The La Khe station is a template for the entire Cat Linh-Ha Dong railway system,”explains Sun Dezhi, deputy general manager of the Sixth Group. “It marks the final stage of the project. It will open to the public soon after its trial operation at the end of 2017. As the first urban rail transport project in Vietnam, it has set a good example for potential cooperation between Beijing and Hanoi. When it officially begins operation in the second quarter of 2018, the rail line will be able to handle 13,400 passengers per hour. Its total capacity could reach as high as 23,200 passengers per hour in the future, which would greatly alleviate traffic pressure in downtown Hanoi.”
From Skepticism to Recognition
Accelerated urbanization has created traffic growing pains in Hanoi, which has a population of nearly 8 million. According to Deputy General Manager Sun, the decision to construct the Cat Linh-Ha Dong rail line was made in October 2003 when Nguyen Tan Dung, then First Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, visited China and experienced urban rail Line 2 in Dalian, Liaoning Province. Construction didn’t commence until October 2011.
The project has drawn great attention from both countries’ governments and related departments, but triggered concerns on issues such as energy-conservation measures in uphill and downhill departure designs. “Nothing happened with our design until Vietnamese experts fully backed it,”Sun adds.
Early on the morning of February 19, 2017, the first Chinese-made light rail train arrived in Hanoi; and it was hoisted onto the track at 11:00 p.m. the next day. “Despite the drizzle, the spectacle drew hundreds of spectators from Hanoi,”recalls Sun. “Installation was completed amid warm applause and cheers by 3:00 a.m. The entire process was broadcast live on television.”