Vietnam’s transport minister publicly criticized the management of a Chinese railway company following recent accidents at an embattled project for which it is contracted in Hanoi, Voice of America reported January 8.
In an animated display seen in a nationally televised broadcast earlier this week, Dinh La Thang reportedly shouted and pointed his fingers at a representative from the state-owned China Railway Sixth Group Co. during a meeting, excoriating it for repeated accidents in the Ha Dong- Cat Linh elevated railway project for which it is the main contractor.
“Each time an accident happens, you accept responsibility, but things have not changed… Even if you make an excuse this time by saying that we borrow loans [from China], I can ask our government to replace you. We cannot trade [Chinese] loans for Vietnamese lives,” Thang said.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
He also implored the company’s top leaders to come down to Vietnam from China to inspect the site and to send more units to ensure a timely completion of the accident-prone and repeatedly delayed project, which he called “the worst” in Vietnam.
Thang’s outburst comes after a recent run of accidents at the problem-ridden project, which has Chinese state-owned China Railway Sixth Group Co. Ltd as its main contractor. On November 6, bulky reels of steel fell off from the construction site, killing one motorcyclist and injuring two others, causing the project to be suspended until November 14.
Just over a month after resuming, however, another accident occurred on December 28 when the scaffolding under construction at Ha Dong terminal collapsed, smashing several cars but causing no casualties.
The Vietnamese government reacted swiftly at the time, with Thang issuing a decision to suspend, demote and reprimand consultants as well as several officials at the Railway Project Management Unit – which operates under the state-owned Vietnam Railways and was tasked with overseeing the project. The subcontractor of the project – Vietnam Technology Consultant and Construction Investment JSC (Vinacontech) was also barred from all work on the railway. China Railway Sixth Group escaped direct censure, but the ministry said it would take all responsibility and bear all costs for the incident.
The embattled Ha Dong- Cat Linh elevated railway project has suffered repeated hiccups since its inception. It was scheduled to start in November 2008 and be completed by 2013, but eventually only began in October 2011. Cost-wise, over $339 million has been added to the project’s initial estimation of $552 million back in 2008, and the price tag could rise even further. Vietnamese officials and experts have repeatedly raised concerns about the project’s safety.