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Future of Hanoi’s 120-year-old Long Bien Bridge unclear

Long Bien Bridge, the iconic bridge across Hanoi’s Red River, has degraded, but no major repair plan has been finalized and its future is unclear.

Bui Khac Diep, deputy director of the Transport Infrastructure Department under the Ministry of Transport, said the ministry has carried out a VND256 billion project to repair the bridge but many items still need to be fixed.

Experts said the 120-year bridge needs a makeover, but the current state budget for the bridge maintenance is modest, which is sufficient for small repairs only.

To have capital for an overall repair, Hanoi may need other sources of capital, including official development assistance (ODA). It is a question about the specific capital for this job as the function of the bridge in the future is unclear.

According to Hanoi’s transport development planning, Long Bien Bridge will be part of the Yen Vien – Ngoc Hoi urban railway (option 1). However, Japanese consultants suggested building a new railway bridge which is 75 meters far from the existing bridge (option 2). However, the site clearance will be complicated.

If option 1 is selected, the bridge would be upgraded. If option 2 is chosen, the bridge’s function would change to become a relic site as proposed by cultural experts and historians. 

The Ministry of Transport’s officials said to be a relic site, the bridge should be restored as its original design but this would require huge capital. After several times of repairs, the bridge structure has changed, with many girders replaced. 

The Yen Vien – Ngoc Hoi urban railway project has not been implemented so the future of the Long Bien Bridge is dim.

While waiting for solutions for the bridge, local authorities are taking measures to ensure daily traffic safety on the bridge.  

The Vietnam Railways Corporation has been assigned to inspect the bridge and propose a repair plan to the Transport Ministry, which will be then submitted to the Government for approval and for capital arrangement.

Diep stressed that preserving the bridge is the responsibility of the governing body, and also local authorities and people. Long Bien Bridge is outdated but it must be repaired to serve transport demand.

Hanoi once prohibited vehicles to cross the bridge, but as the ban was opposed by locals, motorbikes, bicycles and rudimentary vehicles are allowed to travel on the bridge. Since then, the bridge has been degrading and has undergone small repairs. 

Tran Dang Hai, an official of the Hanoi Transport Department, said that the Long Bien Bridge still plays an important role in helping ease overloading on other bridges across the Red River.

He said that even if the Ngoc Hoi – Yen Vien urban railway and new bridges crossing the Red River are built, Long Bien Bridge would be still important in terms of transport and tourism as a relic site.

Vu Diep

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