|An eastern section of North-South Expressway under construction. — VNA/VNS Photo|
Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyễn Ngọc Đông talked to Vietnam News Agency about price fluctuation and shortage of construction materials for the North-South Expressway sub-projects.
Could you update progress of the North-South Expressway project? Are sub-projects meeting deadlines?
The construction of the eastern section of the North-South Expressway was approved by the National Assembly. The Government issued a resolution to implement 11 sub-projects, including eight using public investment (Cao Bồ-Mai Sơn, Mai Sơn-Highway No 45, Highway No -Nghi Sơn, Nghi Sơn-Diễn Châu, Cam Lộ-La Sơn, Vĩnh Hảo-Phan Thiết, Phan Thiết-Dầu Giây and Mỹ Thuận 2 Bridge) and three others (Diễn Châu-Bãi Vọt, Nha Trang-Cam Lâm và Cam Lâm-Vĩnh Hảo) invested in the form of Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
Cao Bồ-Mai Sơn and Cam Lộ-La Sơn projects will be completed in December this year.
Three projects, Mai Sơn- Highway No 45, Vĩnh Hảo-Phan Thiết và Phan Thiết-Dầu Giây, are set to finish in December next year. Other projects will complete construction by the end of 2023.
Build-Operate-Transfer contract of Cam Lâm-Vĩnh Hảo section was signed on July 20. The project will be soon built.
Six sub-projects under construction are Cao Bồ-Mai Sơn, Mai Sơn-Highway No 45, Cam Lộ-La Sơn, Vĩnh Hảo-Phan Thiết, Phan Thiết-Dầu Giây and Mỹ Thuận 2 Bridge. The completed work of those projects covered 26.28 per cent of contract value, almost VNĐ7.5 trillion.
Construction of four sub-projects (Highway No 45-Nghi Sơn, Nghi Sơn-Diễn Châu, Diễn Châu-Bãi Vọt, Nha Trang-Cam Lâm) is being prepared.
Among six sub-projects under construction, two are meeting deadlines (Cao Bồ-Mai Sơn và Mỹ Thuận 2 Bridge), four others are behind schedule due to slow progress of land clearance, lack of construction materials, fluctuating prices of construction materials, especially steel and the impacts of COVID-19.
The transport ministry has ordered investors, sub-project management boards to address difficulties and accelerate progress in order to meet deadlines.
Construction of Cam Lộ-La Sơn project is predicted to last longer due to general difficulties and consequences of floods in 2020.
Could you give more details on the projects’ difficulties?
As of July 2021, about 11.66km out of 652.86km have not been handed over due to land clearance difficulties.
Obstacles mostly result from slow progress of technical infrastructure (electricity, water, cable lines) clearance and complaints from local residents about compensation and land encroachment.
The transport ministry has issued documents or worked directly with local authorities to address the problems. The ministry has reported the problems to the Government so that the Cabinet can urge related ministries and localities to meet deadlines.
Reports from project management boards showed that prices of construction materials, especially steel, had increased, causing financial difficulties to contractors.
Due to increasing demand, the supply of backfill earth materials has not been met.
Increasing mining capacity, raising reserves, and adding more permits for material mining are an urgent requirement to meet the progress.
However, it will take eight to 15 months to get licences to improve mining capacity, according to the Law on Minerals. Most of the projects are lacking materials and on the verge of missing deadlines.
How has the transport ministry worked with local authorities to find solutions to the shortage of construction materials?
The Government issued a resolution dated June 16, 2021 on applying specific mechanism to license the exploitation of minerals as common building materials. The resolution has removed procedures on increasing mining capacity and auction of mining rights.
Local authorities are implementing the resolution but are still confused. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment needs to continue to give instructions.
The transport ministry has asked local authorities to create favourable conditions to accelerate the procedure progress and take measures to fight against monopoly, speculation and illegally increasing construction material prices.
In the long term, in order to ensure key national projects run smoothly, the transport ministry proposed the ministries of finance, natural resources and environment consult with the Government and the National Assembly to make amendments to the Law on Minerals.
The Ministry of Construction has required local construction departments to publish material prices serving as a basis for investors and contractors to make amendments.
How has the North-South Expressway project been affected amid COVID social distancing period?
Projects face difficulties in mobilising forces and equipment. Some projects such as Vĩnh Hảo-Phan Thiết were suspended because workers were infected with COVID-19.
The ministry has ordered management boards of projects to strictly follow COVID-19 protocols and report difficulties to higher-level authorities for solutions.
The ministry has asked provinces and cities to create conditions for trucks carrying materials to go through to ensure project progress. VNS