HCMC Dining Guide

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Make Way for the Subway

The most-discussed project in Saigon in recent years has been the subway system. First proposed in 2001, on paper it has grown to a proposed six lines. Considering how common it is for construction projects to take forever to come to fruition here, many were skeptical that the subway would ever become reality. A couple of years ago, though, work began on the above-ground stretch of the first line, which will run from Suoi Tien park east of the city to Ben Thanh market in central District 1. Now, a line of concrete pillars runs for several kilometers along Highway 1 into Binh Thanh District, and a bridge is being built over the river.

Once this work began it became clear that the subway was actually going to happen, although I have a hard time believing the line will open on target in 2017. A few months ago, progress on the system became impossible to ignore, when the intersection of Nguyen Hue and Le Loi streets, one of the prettiest in town, was fenced off. Dozens of trees were removed, and the small parks (including a large statue of Ho Chi Minh) in front of the Opera House and City Hall were demolished. A giant eraser had been taken to one of the most prominent pieces of real estate in the whole city.

This was all done for the subway, as a huge underground station will be built underneath this once-bustling intersection. Traffic in this area is now a nightmare. Saigon's Christmas and Tet decorations were always centered here, and I'm curious to see what will be done as the holiday season approaches. Up until last week I hadn't been able to see what was actually going on behind the blue fence, but while at the Tax Center for the previous post I realized a cafe on the third floor overlooked the intersection. There is obviously a long way to go on the project, and it was jarring to see giant puddles of dirty rainwater where fountains and trees used to stand.
Looking down Le Loi to the Opera House
The old park in front of the Opera House (courtesy of Google)

Looking up Nguyen Hue to City Hall
The former park and since-removed Ho Chi Minh statue (courtesy of Google)
With further plans to completely change the roundabout in front of iconic Ben Thanh market for another underground station, the subway will arguably be the most dramatic transformation of Saigon ever. There is still the question of how many people will actually use the thing when it's finished; and of how well it will hold up, considering Saigon is essentially a swamp that climate change will render even wetter, but I'm all for the project if it eases the ridiculous traffic and provides a real form of public transportation. We'll see what happens in the coming years.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Mike
    I know it is called a subway system but it looks like most of the line is above ground.

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    1. The early work is all above above ground because that's easier to do, but in the end most of it will be underground. Parts of lines in the outer districts will be above ground because there are fewer buildings but everything in the inner city will be a true subway.

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    2. Very informative entry Mike and yeah it would be impressive if they can complete this by 2017

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