2016 opening seen for Hanoi metro

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A long-delayed metro rail line for the traffic-clogged Vietnamese capital is now scheduled to start service by the end of 2016, the French embassy said Thursday.

The $1 billion project -- funded by France, the European Union and the Asian Development Bank -- had previously been expected to be finished by 2015.

Hanoi authorities approved only in April a master plan for the underground section of the link, putting a new timeline in place, Marie-Cecile Tardieu-Smith, the embassy's economic counsellor, told reporters.

"Large efforts are indispensable if we are to avoid new delays and have this pilot line of the metro in service at the end of December 2016 in Hanoi," she said.

"We do not have a lot of time from now until then for a project as complex as this."

Some initial work had begun in 2006 but the project formally started last September with work on the train depot.

About one-third of the 12.5-kilometre (eight-mile) system will be underground, with the rest on elevated tracks.

Vietnamese and French experts said they would begin on Thursday soil testing required before construction of the underground tunnels, which is slated to begin in November next year.

The rapid-transit link, the capital's first, is to connect Hanoi's main railway station in crowded, older Hoan Kiem district with the Tu Liem neighbourhood being developed as a modern business centre in the city's west.

Foreign businesses have repeatedly complained about Vietnam's underdeveloped transportation and other infrastructure.

© 2011 AFP

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