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Driving force for regional linkage in the south

HCMC, Dong Nai and Ba Ria - Vung Tau (BR-VT) shape the most developed triangle of the country and it has been the center of economy and supply chain of the Southern region. Its limited transport network connection has been one of the major obstacles that limits development potentials of the area. However, there seem to be flourishing news in 2022 for the field.

Projects being implemented

At the end of 2021, especially the last days of December, although having to deal with the raging COVID-19 epidemic, the Government and the Ministry of Transport have had a series of movements showing great determination on improving the transport infrastructures in the Southern region.

According to the plan, Long Thanh Airport Phase 1 will have been completed and put into operation by the end of 2025. The airport and Cai Mep - Thi Vai Port Group will be major development centers of sectors of aviation and seaport for the country in the future.

On September 23, Prime Minister had the decision to approve the policy on investing in the project of Bien Hoa - Vung Tau Expressway (phase 1) in form of public-private partnership (PPP). According to the plan, Long Thanh Airport Phase 1 will have been completed and put into operation by the end of 2025. The airport and Cai Mep - Thi Vai Port Group will be major development centers of sectors of aviation and seaport for the country in the future. Therefore, the role of Bien Hoa - Vung Tau Expressway will certainly be of importance: it will be the connecting road of the projects being expected to make socioeconomic breakthroughs of the Southeastern region.

Last year, the Government assigned the People’s Committee of HCMC to invest in the HCMC - Moc Bai Expressway, solving the problem of the National Route 22 being the single route from HCMC to Tay Ninh and Cambodia. The Expressway will be a great motive force for both Tay Ninh and the Southern Key Economic Zone. In the phase 1, the project is carried out from 2021 - 2026. In the new year of 2022, HCMC and Tay Ninh will coordinate to complete legal procedures for faster implementation of the project.

The conference to review the work in 2021 and implement the plans in 2022 by the Ministry of Transport held on December 25 identified investments in transport infrastructure as a particularly important task in 2022. The ministry ensured by the end of 2022, all 12 element projects of the Eastern North - South Expressway in the period of 2021 - 2025 must be started for on-time exploitation as planned. Particularly, the section of Dau Giay - Phan Thiet is hurried to be completed ahead of schedule for exploitation in next year. The ministry also determined to have focused research on new routes as HCMC - Can Tho - Ca Mau and trans-border route to Cambodia and Laos.

On December 28, in the meeting session with the People’s Committees of Lam Dong and Dong Nai Provinces to remove obstacles in the implementation of Tan Phu - Bao Loc - Lien Khuong Expressway, Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh and leaders of these two provinces also showed high determination.

The expressway is expected to start in 2022 and will be completed in 2025. It is expected to start in October 2022. According to the Project 1 Board of Management, in 2003, the Ministry of Transport organized a feasibility study report for the Expressway of Dau Giay - Lien Khuong with the designed speed of 80 - 120kph, including 4 lanes and 2 emergency stopping lanes. However, it has not been started due to problems of capital allocation. It should be the time to start now.

In addition, there are two more expressway under construction in the area. Ben Luc - Long Thanh Expressway started its construction in July 2014, it is expected to be completed in 2024, helping to connect the Southern and the Southeastern without having to go through HCMC and thus reducing traffic pressure on the National Routes 1A and 51. Trung Luong - My Thuan - Can Tho is the project of the last section of the North - South Expressway. It has the length of 81km. With the starting point connecting HCMC - Trung Luong Expressway, it crosses the Tien River at My Thuan 2 Bridge, connects Tien Giang - Vinh Long and Can Tho. The section of Trung Luong - My Thuan started in 2009, and it was expected to be completed in 2013. However, due to various reasons, it was refinanced in 2019 and is expected to be put into operation on Tet 2022. The construction of the road helps to solve the problem of traffic overloaded on the National Route 1A, promotes socio-economic developments and ensures national security of provinces in the Southwestern. In the future, it will be a key road for the Mekong Delta.

Investment in expressways is just a necessary condition

Looking at the map, it can be seen that all the abovementioned expressways almost all start or gather at a central hub, HCMC. With the advantages of infrastructure, an industrial development center, a technology research, an innovation center, a training center and human resource supply, it is clear that HCMC is playing a leading role, connecting all supply chains in the southern region. Along with the process, Ba Ria - Vung Tau has been becoming a major logistics center of the country, and HCMC has also become the center of cargo movements in the region. Agricultural and seafood products from the Mekong Delta provinces, the Southeast provinces, some South Central provinces and Tay Nguyen are all "in transit" or go through a number of processing factories here before being exported or inter-regionally distributed. This is also a place to attract labor source and is a market for domestic consumption of a large amount of agricultural and seafood products.

Out of about 1,163km of highways built across the country by 2020, only 225km in the South, accounting for 19.3%. Therefore, it is necessary and beneficial to invest in a number of expressways in this area as a driving force for regional connectivity and economic development.

With plenty of difficulties in 2021 due to the epidemic, it is difficult for many FDI and domestic companies to find qualified employees to maintain its operation. Goods are hard to be consumed due to decreasing demands and various reasons. Systems of warehouses and ports have been in stagnation. Agricultural supply chain was sometime congested, which results in price increase due to the lack of consuming sources. These difficulties would have been better overcome if the whole economy and localities had had more efficient regional linkage or more practical connections among producers and enterprises.

Smooth traffic is the first important condition for regional linkages to promote the strengths of each locality. Out of about 1,163km of highways built across the country by 2020, only 225km in the South, accounting for 19.3%. Therefore, it is necessary and beneficial to invest in a number of expressways in this area as a driving force for regional connectivity and economic development. However, that is only a necessary condition. How efficient use of these highways is for the carrier, that is, whether the BOT fee is enough to offset the advantages and reduced freight time, is important. Moreover, effective regional linkage cannot be achieved when substantive cooperation cannot be promoted and the local and regional thinking cannot be eliminated.

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