Vietnam’s National Highway 1A (NH1A) is one of the main arteries of transport in Vietnam. It is the longest highway in the country, stretching along the coastline from Huu Nghi Quan Border Gate (near the Sino-Vietnamese border) in the north to Nam Can in Ngoc Hien District of Ca Mau Province in the south. The highway is over 2,300 kilometers (or over 1,400 miles) in length, compared to Vietnam’s windy coastline of over 3,200 kilometers (or over 2,000 miles).
National Highway 1A was initially known as Duong Thien Ly (or ‘The Thousand-Mile Road’) and was built in disjointed segments over time. While the connecting of disjointed segments was not necessarily contemplated previously, it was a natural progression and the roads were ultimately connected when the country was united under the Nguyen Dynasty. The highway was further improved and expanded upon by French colonists in the early 20th Century.
Since the French colonialists’ work on the highway, it has been upgraded by the Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) as approved in March 2010 and the World Bank since 1993 following the lifting of the foreign aid embargo on Vietnam. The Japanese ODA Loan will be used to repair and replace nine bridges on NH1A in the southern Mekong delta region (from Can Tho to Ca Mau). The World Bank’s assistance in 1993, the first transport sector project in Vietnam that was funded under a program sponsored by the United Nation Development Program, involved rehabilitating two sections of NH1A from Hanoi south to Vinh and from Saigon south to Can Tho. The 1993 World Bank project also supplied new ferries and rehabilitated existing ones, as well as improved ferry operations at the two river-crossings of My Thuan and Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. The World Bank has since repaired 1,000 kilometers of the NH1A and an additional 600 kilometers of improvements are currently underway. More recently, the French company VINCI Construction Grands Projects has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Vietnamese company Deo Ca Investment JSC to work on the construction of the Ca Pass tunnel and road project in Vietnam. The project is estimated at US$600 million and calls for widening 9 kilometer of road and building a new 11 kilometer section that includes two tunnels, three bridges and approach roads, which will eliminate the final dangerous mountain pass crossing on the highway.
The improvements that have thus far been completed on National Highway 1A have benefited the country and its people tremendously. However, NH1A and Vietnamese roads in general continue to need improvements to ensure more efficient transport and safety of everyone on the road. As previously presented in a OneVietnam article, there are all types of vehicles on local roads and highways, from pedestrians to bicycles and cow carts to heavy duty commercial trucks. Particularly in Vietnam, where there is little to no distinction on which vehicles are permitted on which type of road, narrow and low quality roads make smaller vehicles such as bicycles and motorbikes especially vulnerable to accidents. More specifically for NH1A, the National Assembly’s recent rejection of the proposal to build a bullet train from Hanoi to Saigon means that the highway will continue to be one of the main mediums of transport connecting the different regions of Vietnam. Though safety and efficiency are also functions of regulations and behaviors of those on the roads, having better transport infrastructure would assist in reducing tragedies resulting from roads in poor form.