Speaking at the opening ceremony, PM Dung stressed that the expressway played a crucial role in the socio-economic development of the northwest region. He instructed the Transport Ministry and northwestern provinces to ensure that provincial highways could easily be connected to the expressway.

He also asked the Transport Ministry to quickly finish the 19 km section that links Lao Cai to the border with China and expand the Yen Bai-Lao Cai section from two to four lanes.

Nguyen Van Vinh, party secretary of Lao Cai Province, reaffirmed the expressway's important role in helping the province attract investment and trade, as well as reducing the load on the Ha Noi-Lao Cai railway route.

The expressway crosses through the capital as well as Vinh Phuc, Phu Tho, Yen Bai and Lao Cai provinces. The Ha Noi-Yen Bai section has four lanes for vehicles travelling 100 kph while the Yen Bai-Lao Cai section has two lanes for vehicles travelling 80 kph.

The project, which broke ground in 2008, has total investment of nearly US$1.5 billion, including $1.03 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s Ordinary Capital Resources, $236.21 million as soft loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s Asian Development Fund and $170.31 million as the Government's counterpart capital, which was spent on site clearance. At least 25,000 households were cleared for the project.

The expressway will shorten the travel time from Ha Noi to Lao Cai from the current seven hours to 3.5 hours, in addition to reducing the time it takes to drive from Ha Noi to Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang.

PM Dung also inaugurated the opening of a cast iron and steel plant in Tang Long Industrial Complex in Bao Thang District yesterday.

The joint venture between Viet Nam Steel Corporation, Lao Cai Mineral Company and Kunning Steel and Cast Iron Joint Stock Company was completed in three years and will initially produce 500,000 tonnes of cast iron per year. Part of a long-term development plan for the country's steel sector, it will provide jobs for about 1,000 locals.

PM Dung stressed that the new plant would help the domestic steel sector meet demand and reflected the ongoing co-operation between Vietnamese and Chinese companies.

Also as part of his working visit to Lao Cai, PM Dung reminded local authorities to take advantage of tourism to promote sustainable development during a working session on Saturday with provincial authorities.

In addition, he asked the locality to foster the mineral exploitation and processing industry as well as agro-forestry production and said the province should take more drastic measures to implement the national strategy programme on building new-style rural areas.

Regarding a development plan for the popular tourist destination of Sa Pa, the PM said Lao Cai should invite foreign consultants if necessary so that the plan could optimise Sa Pa's potential and advantages while preserving local cultural characteristics, natural landscape and heritage and protecting the environment. He suggested local authorities work out policies to mobilise resources for developing transport infrastructure and tourism services.

Lao Cai's economic growth was estimated at 13.7 percent in the first nine months and the number of tourists rose 33 percent from the same period last year, according to chairman of the provincial People's Committee Doan Van Huong.

Authorities aim to develop the area into a tourism zone covering around 363 ha and comprising urban residential areas, tourism sites, agriculture zones and the Hoang Lien National Park.

PM Dung also inspected the construction site of a cable car line that will carry visitors to the top of Mt. Fansipan, Viet Nam's highest peak. The line is scheduled to be complete by April 2015.

Vietnam News - September 22, 2014