A Tunnel Under Halong Bay?

Vietnam, Halong Bay, infrastructure, airport

Will it be necessary to build a tunnel crossing the UNESCO world heritage of Halong Bay in a bid to relieve congestion on the surface? Last year Halong received close to seven million domestic and international travellers and the growth continues unabated.

Vietnam News Service reported that the province of Quảng Ninh, home to the UNESCO heritage site Hạlong Bay, is seeking to build a 1.3km undersea tunnel “at the doorstep” of the world-renowned site. Quảng Ninh Province Party Committee agreed to a six-lane design of the tunnel and its direction.

Provincial authorities said they are facilitating the completion of the report on the planned project to be submitted to the Prime Minister for approval. If the Government gives permission, the project can commence as soon as early 2019, and is scheduled for completion in four years.

The undersea tunnel is part of the 2.1km Cửa Lục tunnel project aimed at easing the increasing traffic load on Bãi Cháy Bridge.

The bridge, built in 2006 to replace the outdated Bãi Cháy ferry, remains the sole way for vehicles to travel between the two straits of the narrow Cửa Lục Bay. Besides the mounting traffic pressure, ensuring safety and uninterrupted flow of economic activities even during heavy storms is a high priority; hence the need for an underground passage, according to the provincial authorities.

The tunnel will start along Hạlong Street, at the intersection that leads into Sun World Hạ Long Park (Bãi Cháy Ward), and end at the intersection onHồng Gai Ward– two streets considered as “main axes” on two sides of the Cửa Lục Bay.

Total investment for the ambitious project is estimated at VNĐ7.875 trillion (US$346.5 million), nearly six times what has been spent over a decade ago to construct Bãi Cháy Bridge.

Nguyễn Văn Đọc, secretary of the Quảng Ninh Province Party Committee, said this was a “key project.” However, the project remained at the “ideation stage” so the Party Committee still needed to collect feedback to consolidate its pre-feasibility report.

He told the consulting agency to survey carefully the geographical conditions of the site and the start and end points of the tunnel. After the feasibility report had been completed, details of the project would be made public and opinions would be sought.

Halong Bay remains one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam for both domestic and international travellers. The Unesco-listed iconic scenery welcomed last year 6.93 million visitors up 12.9% over 2016. This number includes some three million overseas travellers.

An international airport is due to open this year with an initial capacity of 2.5 million passengers while a toll way (opening planned for the second quarter 2018) will reduce travel time from Hanoi to two hours instead of four currently.