Long Bien Bridge is a symbol of the immortality of Hanoians and is considered a bridge that connects the past and the present. The bridge is an historical witness of the changes in Hanoi.
Nguyen Vinh Phuc, a Hanoi researcher, said Long Bien Bridge has memories about war, evacuation, the period of a state-controlled economy, existence and familiarity with each person in Hanoi.
Long Bien Bridge can present different images. It looks charming and romantic reflected in the Red River, especially with the glow of sunset or in drizzling rain in the north. From the south, the bridge looks shabby, typically as the first gleam of daylight shines on the stream of people on bikes going to Hanoi from the suburbs.
Each time trains slowly go through the bridge and a train-whistle resounds reminding people of the past, the period of Long Bien Bridge as a unique crossing over the Red River.
Long Bien Bridge is an historic cantilever bridge that crosses the Red River, connecting two parts of the city of Hanoi. It was built in 1903 by French architect Gustave Eiffel. Before 1954, it was called Doumer Bridge, named after Paul Doumer a�� the Governor-General of French Indochina and then French president. It was, at that time, one of the longest bridges in Asia spanning 2,500m. After more than a century of continuous use, the bridge is now in poor condition.
A project to restore Hanoi’s Long Bien Bridge has begun with assistance from the French government.
Between 2000 and 2001, the French government sent two groups of experts to Vietnam to survey the bridge’s status and discussed ways to restore it with their Vietnamese counterparts.
The idea to restore the bridge is to retain the cultural features and art, as well as helping to continue the life of the bridge as a witness of Hanoi’s history.
Vietnam and France reached an agreement on the provision of aid, around $1 million to prepare a feasibility study.
French experts have suggested 20 percent of the bridge’s parts should be replaced to restore the bridge to its original form.
The consultants have presented three solutions:
The bridge will continue to serve trains, bicycles and pedestrians, as it does at present.
The bridge will only serve buses, pedestrians and bicycles.
It will serve only pedestrians and non-motor vehicles like bicycles and cyclos.
Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai directed the Transport Engineering Design Corporation to cooperate with the French firms, Thales and Coyne et Bellier, to complete the feasibility study.
Deputy Transport Minister Nguyen Viet Tien approved the project to repair the bridge as in two phases.
First phase: Repairing the bridge while still ensuring transport flow, retaining the middle lane for trains, while the side lanes are for pedestrians, bicycles and motorbikes.
Accordingly, 53 percent of the bridge’s girders will be replaced, while bridge foundations will be strengthened to prevent erosion.
Second phase: Once an overhead rail track is built, the middle lane will be refurbished for pedestrians and bicycles, while the outer lanes will be opened for cars and motorbikes.
In the second phase, a major section of the bridge (around 200m) will be raised 3m to give clearance to river vessels during flood seasons.
Along with repairing Long Bien Bridge, another train crossing will be built 50m from the bridge.
The project will cost VND2,489 trillion ($142.8 million).
A festival, Long Bien Bridge’s Memory, took place on the bridge at the end of 2008, allowing people to relive Hanoi’s memories about the bridge.
During the peak wedding season in Hanoi, brides and grooms having photos taken at the bridge can be seen. Long Bien Bridge is not only ingrained in the minds of Hanoians, it will live eternally and watch stories that never end.