Hanoi has long been home to streets flooded with tiny scooters weaving between lanes and pedestrians
But that could soon all be about to change.
As the capital of Vietnam struggles under oppressive fumes that engulf the city, the new stations that have begun to pop up along the skyline serve as a symbol of Hanoi’s more eco-friendly future.
A city crying out for sustainable growth and travel will soon be about to get it with the opening of the Hanoi Metro.
Changing transport choices
The attraction of the scooter to most of Hanoi’s citizens, and other countries in the region at a similar level of economic development, is its relatively low price measured against time/cost of travel. Hanoi has a total population of almost eight million people, and four million of them have motorbikes. In 1996 there was only four million motorbikes in the entire country.
In 2005 the average commuting time in Hanoi was 18-20 minutes over a distance of between six and eight kilometres. For 2018 it is predicted that commuting time will take between 30 and 40 minutes.
When the locations of the stations on both line 2A and line 3 were discussed it was essential to take into consideration how to maximise their convenience for commuters. As the city’s population continues to expand and congestion worsens it’s important that new developments go some way to maintaining the city’s distinct character.
Visitors to Hanoi will be familiar with it’s sense of small town charm, the quiet side streets, the leafy boulevards around the Hoan Kiem lake and coffee shops with cascade seating spilling out onto the wide pavements. But in truth Hanoi has become a major Asian city with a huge number of housing projects popping up over the last five years.
In the 1990s people from the countryside would migrate to Hanoi and built the tall narrow houses that typify the city’s character to this day. The centre of the city, the old town, was left largely untouched and many historical buildings, such as the Hanoi Opera House, remained – especially after the area designating the official old town was determined by the government in 1995.
But the tight little rooms stacked on top of each other that typify the Hanoi skyline are steadily being replaced by new builds more befitting the city’s growing middle class. The underground metro station at the Temple of Literature (Quoc Tu Giam) has yet to be built but the intention is for the design to imitate the temple’s flowing roof.
It’s considerations like this that will help endear the new metro lines to the population. Making the metro useful is important but for the city to truly adopt the new way of travelling it has to appeal to those who might only use the metro sporadically. Whilst some may miss the honking of horns from the motorbikes the metro stations at Vietnam National University or Hoan Kiem lake have been designed to blend in with the surroundings, which should go some way to helping Hanoi maintain its character.
A tale of two metro lines
There are two metro lines currently under construction in Hanoi.
Line 3 has received funding from the European Investment Bank $170 million, the Asian Development Bank has provided $293 million but the story of this particular line will be one of French-Vietnamese cooperation. The French government and French development agency has provided $640 million in preferential loans with French company Systra working as design consultants responsible for the architecture and civil engineering alongside South Korea’s Posco.
Line 2A is a different story however, as the vast majority of its funding has come from a Chinese ODA of $420 million. As is the case with most Chinese-funded projects around the world all of the contractors and companies working on Line 2A Cat Linh-Ha Dong line are Chinese and the trains were purchased from China. This line will also have a larger impact on the city’s appearance as all the twelve of the stations will be elevated, with each one roughly one to one and a half kilometres apart.
Line 3 starts from the depot in the western suburbs, runs for eight elevated stations until it crosses To Lich River and then dives underground for four stations up to Ha Noi station in the centre of the city.
Phase one of the project focuses on the construction, equipment manufacturing and installation of the elevated section and depot with the aim of commencing operations in the second quarter of 2020.
Due to several difficulties mainly caused by land acquisition and bidding, the railway line is expected to be completed behind schedule. The underground section will be completed by 2022. Different areas of the city throw up different challenges. The site for the underground station near Hoan Kiem Lake is currently being cleared, so far almost two hundred trees have been relocated and another 82 have been cut down. In total almost four hundred trees will be relocated and another 150 cut down.
The site for the ramp to underground section of Kim Ma station, the first underground station heading into the city and the northern part of the next station, near the Pullman Hotel, has been handed over to the contractor.
The construction is going to be implemented with tangent piles, test piles, and bored piles along Thu Le Lake. The fencing plan at the ramp in front of Daewoo Hotel and the vertical shaft at Kim Ma – Nui Truc intersection has been approved by the Hanoi Department of Transport (DOT) and the Hanoi People’s Committee (HPC).
Convenience and beauty
This article started by discussing the popularity of the motorcycle across Vietnam and especially in Hanoi. This is primarily attributed to its convenience.
The purpose of line 3 of the Hanoi metro is to ferry commuters from the suburbs into the centre of the city with that same convenience whilst also improving Hanoi’s air quality and livability. The impact it will have on the city’s overall aesthetic, remains to be seen.