CHAIRMAN of the Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen Quoc Trieu officially launched the construction of the first modern light rail line in the Vietnamese capital at a groundbreaking ceremony on December 27.Work began at the site of the maintenance depot and operations control centre in Tu Liem district, west of the city centre. The depot is located near the outer terminus of the 14?5?km route. The 12?7?km first phase will run from Nh?n to Hanoi station via Cau Dien, Cau Giay, Kim Ma and Giang Vo streets (RG 7.04 p389). The second phase would add a short extension through the city centre to Bac C? on the Red River waterfront.The French government is contributing a soft loan worth ?200m towards the anticipated US$650m cost of the project, which was developed by French consultancy Systra after the city’s last traditional tram route closed in 1990. The light rail line is expected to open in October 2010, and to carry up to 9 000 passengers/h in each direction. Eight more routes are proposed for construction by 2020 in Hanoi’s long-term development plan.