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December 17, 2007

ADB pledges $1.1b aid for expressway

The Asian Development Bank is to provide almost US$1.1 billion – its biggest single project sum yet – for Vietnam to build 244km of highway from suburban Ha Noi to Lao Cai on the China border.

The money is for an efficient, safe and reliable high-standard road from the capital’s Noi Bai airport to Lao Cai, the bank says in a media statement issued from its Manila headquarters on Friday.

The road will create a new freight route between China’s Yunnan Province, Ha Noi and Hai Phong, it says.

The highway will enable goods to be carried between Kunming, Ha Noi and Hai Phong within a day and between Noi Bai and Lao Cai in three hours.

That journey now takes seven to ten hours.

The Ha Noi-Kunming journey now takes two days for cars and three days for trucks.

The media statement says the expressway is scheduled for completion in 2012.

"The new highway is designed to reduce the volume of traffic passing through cities and towns and will operate as a fully access-controlled tollway," it says.

The statement says socio-economic benefits to northern Vietnam from the new highway will include the expansion of business; higher exports and more tourists.

The reduced travel time will allow industries clustered around Ha Noi and the port of Hai Phong to expand into the country’s poor north-west and this will increase
employment opportunities and social-service access for communities along the highway corridor.

The media statement says the new highway will increase Vietnam’s capacity to export agricultural and maritime produce to Yunnan Province, and beyond to the huge hinterland markets of south-western China.

The new highway is also expected to boost cross-border travel to Vietnam’s world-heritage listed Ha Long Bay and China’s Three Parallel Rivers.

"Traffic along the Ha Noi – Lao Cai corridor is already reaching saturation levels in many areas and without this new highway, traffic costs would increase, while trade and growth would be suppressed," said the bank’s Southeast Asia Department Infrastructure Division director John Conney.

" Vietnam needs modern highways to help remove transportation bottlenecks, accelerate economic growth and ultimately expand economic opportunity for Vietnamese families," he said.

"This is particularly important for the north-western provinces through which the highway will pass. These are among the poorest in Vietnam, and their poverty is very closely linked to their present lack of access to the thriving economic centres around Ha Noi and Hai Phong."

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.216 billion.

The $1.096 million provided by the Asian Development Bank will comprise of two loans: A $200 million low-interest loan from the Asian Development Fund and a $896 million from the bank’s Ordinary Capital Resources.

The Vietnam Expressway Corporation will manage the project. — VNS

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