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A project that will radically change the lives of people in VietnamHanoi hops on the metro

10 min


Colas Rail is helping build Hanoi's launch metro line, which is to be partially opened to the public in 2021. This project will bring residents a new way to get around their bustling city.
By Isabelle Godar

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.

fold increase in two-wheeled vehicle traffic between 1995 and 2005
fold increase in car traffic

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.

workers laying track

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”

scheduled public opening of the overhead section
scheduled opening of the underground section
passengers per hour and per direction (estimated)

Line 3 of Hanoi metro is 32 kilometres of track

kilometres of depot
kilometres of overhead section
kilometres of tunnel


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.

Workers on the site can move about the building and, thanks to the 3D projection, can verify that the positions and dimensions are correct. “We can check everything at a glance, whereas before, we had to measure each opening manually. It saves us time, and it’s more reliable”, says Romain Lashermes, Planning and methods manager on package 7. This innovation developed by a start-up with support from Colas Rail has been tested in two projects: Line 3 of the Hanoi metro and the metro project at Rennes, France. “It points to how worksites will be managed in the future,”, predicts Thomas Celimène. Holobim will be used next in the underground work, which is often more complicated because of the larger number of interfaces.
Colas Rail Vietnam
year of creation
employees, of which 420 site workers
In South-east Asia, Colas Rail has also supplied the Jabodebek LRT line in Jakarta, Indonesia
Olivier Wendling
Managing director, Colas Rail Vietnam
“Vietnam is not well versed in rail transport. The construction of the interregional network dates back to the late 19th century. We have transferred qualified personnel from our operations in France and Malaysia, and from Venezuela, where we are helping to build the Caracas and Los Teques metro. These experts train local employees, as is the custom at Colas Rail.”

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.

The positive impacts of the metro
tonnes of CO2 eq. fewer greenhouse-gas emissions
Fewer traffic accidents:
2,100/year (o/w 500 fatal), compared with 3,500/year (o/w 900 fatal) today
Urban economy:
cultural and commercial activities around the metro stations

In figures

million inhabitants in Vietnam
of the population lives in urban environments
metro lines currently being built in Hanoi: line 2A and line 3
million for the works on the line for Colas Rail
Full handover of Line 3
>Photo credits Arnaud Février ; Michel Saemann ; Société du Grand Paris/ Jean-Marie Duthilleul/ Philippe Gazeau.