Vietnam cracks whip on “sluggish” contractors delaying $18.5bn expressway

The expressway will run down the entire north-south length of long and narrow Vietnam. This is a completed section near Ninh Binh in the far north (Kien1980v/Public domain)
The Vietnamese transport ministry says it will penalise companies that fail to build the country’s transformative North-South Expressway fast enough.

If a contractor breaches an agreed commitment, the ministry will terminate its contract and bar it from future public contracts, reports news site Vietnam Plus.

Several contractors have already been criticised and put under special monitoring.

The 2,100km motorway is a complex project to build an expressway from the north to the south of this very long, narrow country at an estimated cost of $18.5bn.

It is split into some 38 sub-projects with different start dates. The first began in 2019 after nine years of design, planning and site acquisition.

The government aims to have at least 360km of road done by the end of the year. In April, Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh said greater effort was required from contractors to prevent the government “losing credibility with the public”.

It wants to avoid the lengthy delays that beset the construction of metro systems in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The ministry’s latest report says that 60% of sub-projects have not yet met their scheduled timetables, with builders lagging up to 5.3% behind schedule.

This was put down to difficulties in site clearance, abnormal weather, the impact of the pandemic and fluctuations in the prices of materials.

The ministry also pointed the finger at companies it said had been “sluggish” in accelerating works that had fallen behind. These companies, all Vietnamese run, received written warnings and many were subject to “special monitoring” and required to sign a construction plan.

The monitoring has taken the form of ministry site inspections and weekly progress review meetings.

Vietnam Plus quoted the North-South Expressway Management and Operation Board as saying: “The continuous delay in progress was the subjective responsibility of the contractors. The delay was seriously affecting the disbursement plan, road surface construction and the completion of the whole project as per the schedule set by the Minister of Transport.”

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