Hanoi, Vietnam -- (SBWIRE) -- 08/27/2013 -- When it opened for business in 1903, The Paul Doumer Bridge was an architectural marvel. It was one of the longest bridges in Asia and was named after the then, Governor-General of Indochina, Mon. Paul Doumer. It had taken over two years to build and three thousand Vietnamese were employed in its construction. It connected the two halves of Hanoi and soon became an important landmark for the city. After Independence in 1954 it was renamed The Long Bien Bridge. Now it appears its future is in doubt.
This is a bridge of real significance at one and a half miles long it was certainly classed as one of the most spectacular anywhere in the world in its day and was a way of the French colonists to make a statement of intent. It crosses the Red River and as such was heavily bombarded during the war, the center section being destroyed in 1967. Plenty of the original structure remains and the damaged sections have been rebuilt.
The buildings of other bridges close by have put the bridge’s future in jeopardy. Only passenger trains, motorbikes, cycles and pedestrians now use it. The building of the close-by Chuong Duong Bridge has taken most traffic away. In addition, some other newly constructed bridges, namely; the Nhat Tan, Thang Long, Thanh Tri and Vinh Tuy have only added to its problems.
It has fallen into disrepair and the concrete slabs which site perilously on rusting iron frames are cracked and have sections missing, affording pedestrians the somewhat unwanted view of the river, a long way below. All the ironwork on the bridge is rusting and well pat its former glory. It is an unedifying feeling being on the bridge when a train goes over. The whole structure reverberates and then shakes violent as it passes by. Something clearly has to be done, but it is extremely uncertain what that is. The repairs and reconstruction would cost a fortune.
For the people living directly underneath, it has become a symbol that they have known all their lives. Farmers tend their crops and boats sail by carrying all kinds of produce. Sand barges slip silently underneath and people sit in the fields and picnic. Tourist and locals alike come out at weekend to get that all important snap, with the city of Hanoi in the background.
Now however, Vietnam Railways have expressed a wish to divert the railway completely. This would surely sound the death knell for the bridge. It would be impossible to justify the necessary repair work purely for pedestrians and bikes. Last year the Vietnamese asked the French if they would like to assist in the financing of reconstruction, but nothing has happened. There has even been a plan mooted, to cover it with glass and preserve it as a museum, with the island in the middle of the Red River turned into something of a park.
However for now, it stands as a majestic rusting epitaph to days gone by, and awaits its extremely uncertain future.
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