Hanoi, a sprawling and fast-paced city in northern Vietnam, throbs with life – a good deal of which happens on the sidewalks, where people shop at colourful stalls, sip a bowl of pho (Vietnamese soup) while seated on little chairs, get a haircut or play co ou ky (a game similar to chess) with friends...Motorbikes flood through the tangle of narrow streets, weaving in and out among buses, pedestrians, cars, and rickshaws. Hanoi has 7.6 million inhabitants and probably as many two-wheel vehicles, the favourite means of transport of the Vietnamese.
This phenomenon is growing along with the population, and has a major impact on the environment and health. To cope with the transport crisis, the government came out with a major development plan in 2011 for the construction of eight metro lines in the capital by 2050.
Colas Rail is one of the companies building Line 3 for the Hanoi Metropolitan Railway Management Board. The aim is to cover the 12 kilometres between the historical centre and the western edge of the city. Colas Rail’s contract includes the laying of track, both overhead and underground, as well as the installation of electromechanical equipment in the stations, the power supply system, and the maintenance depot located at the end of the line. In this last package, Colas Rail will team up in a consortium with Alstom and Thalès.
First line, first time
As night falls and traffic dwindles on Hanoi’s main thoroughfares, construction equipment rolls up and parks along the viaduct. A couple dozen site workers are finishing up the track laying here. Concrete is fed from the batch plant into the formworks containing rebar to construct the slabs that will support the rails. Once this operation is completed, the temporary fasteners will be removed for the final alignment of the track and the installation of the third rail. “One hundred meters of track are laid in this way each evening. We pour the concrete at night so that our machines don’t interfere with traffic, which is extremely dense during the day”, explains Colas Chalamont, Construction manager for package 8 (the metro tracks). Once completed, the metro line will connect the central train station to three of the city’s largest universities and serve the main cultural sites like the Temple of Literature, located in the historical centre. “The new metro is going to revolutionize how we get around the city, says Hoang Van Due, Works manager for package 8. For many Hanoi residents, it will be the very first time they have ever taken a metro. Its public opening is certain to be a national event”
Line 3 of Hanoi metro is 32 kilometres of track
There will be twelve stations along the line, or one every kilometre. The second package awarded to Colas Rail is for the installation of electromechanical equipment in the stations. “The civil engineering contractor is passing the stations on to us so that we can put in the ventilation, smoke-removal, air handling, and fire protection and detection systems, the escalators and lifts, and the water disposal system”, explains Thomas Célimène, the package 7 Project director. To do this work, the Colas Rail Vietnam teams plan to use Holobim, a type of digital mock-up tool that uses virtual reality. It superposes virtual elements (or holograms) on the actual environment in a virtual reality headset.
A new era
The trains of the future Hanoi metro will be painted green and red, two colours symbolic of the country: green for its lush rice paddies and red for the dragon fruit sold at stalls in street markets. Alstom will deliver ten trains from the Metropolis Urbalis 400 family. To supply systems components for the metro, Colas Rail is working in a consortium with several French groups, including Alstom and Thalès, as well as with Systra for the engineering. In this last contract, Colas Rail is supplying high-voltage networks along with about 40 pieces of train maintenance equipment for the depot in Nhon, west of Hanoi. It will also provide warranty services for two years. With this first project in Vietnam, Colas Rail is aiming to establish itself as one of the country’s preferred partners to stay in the running with its well-entrenched Asian competitors. “Six more lines will be built over the next few years in the administrative capital,” points out Olivier Wendling, Managing director of Colas Rail Vietnam. “The government has also announced the construction of eight metro lines in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest city.” These infrastructure projects mirror the exponential economic growth the county is enjoying right now (7.1% in 2018) and the surge in urban population accompanying it. The eagerly awaited Line 3 is set to give Hanoi a second wind as it races into the future.