Sep 18, 2017 / 13:31

Hanoi's 115-year-old Bridge: Story from the insider

The Hanoitimes - In February 1902, the Paul Doumer Bridge, now is Long Bien Bridge across the Red River, was officially put into use after more than three years of construction. To date, the bridge "crossing three centuries" is 115 years old.

Construction from skepticism
Regarding "Crossing three centuries" as it was commenced in the late 19th century, in September 1898. The Governor General of French Indochina, Mr. Paul Doumer successfully persuaded the French Government to construct this bridge.
Paul Doumer Bridge (Long Bien Bridge) in 1939 taken by the French.
Paul Doumer Bridge (Long Bien Bridge) in 1939 taken by the French.

According to Mr. Paul Doumer this was an extremely urgent work. At that time, Hanoi was separated from districts on the left bank of the river. For Hanoi people in the past, crossing the Red River was always difficult, expensive and even dangerous.
However, "there was a lot of skepticism and opposition in Vietnam as well as in Paris, and after the initial survey studies were completed, the difficulties need to be overcome in order to carry out the bidding and construction works come from people rather than nature”, Mr. Paul Doumer recalled in his memoirs.
During the tender held in 1897 for the construction of this bridge, there were major French construction contractors. The project of Daydé and Pillé contractors in Creil (Oise) was selected. The first stone was laid and the construction began in the dry season, from September 1898. The design was approved and then fully executed without delay.
In Mr. Paul Doumer's memory, this bridge honors all who made it, including French engineers, foremen and masons as well as Vietnamese workers.
According to him, many people were skeptical and did not believe this massive construction can be completed. Many people thought that it was crazy to build a bridge across the Red River.
The most far-sighted and open-minded officials were also afraid that the French had chosen a reckless solution. They told him that the river was too wide for the bridge to stand as well as too deep to build the abutment.
"In that situation, I reassured them and promised to be successful. But they exclaimed loudly: "Nonsense! Then they further added that it was a total insanity. Only the pillars coming out of the water in the following months and the deployment of steel bridge spans could convince them", Mr. Paul Doumer said.
Over the past 115 years, Long Bien Bridge has become one of the symbols of Hanoi.
More than three years after the construction, the massive bridge was completed. This bridge consumed more than 6 million Franc at that time.
Immediately after completion, the bridge was named after Governor-General of French Indochina, Mr. Paul Doumer. The bridge was inaugurated in February 1902, and the route from Hai Phong to Hanoi could be exploited right at that time. The first train on this route passing the city, crossing over the bridge and over a hundred kilometers of railways to formally inaugurating the route had took Mr. Paul Doumer on the way back to France after completing his mission in Indochina.
This bridge also witnessed great historical event of the country, where the French expeditionary force withdrew from Hanoi in October 1954 to pass through Gia Lam airport and welcomed the Liberation Army delegation took over the capital.
Mr. Paul Doumer (1857 - 1932) held important positions like Finance Minister of France, President of the French House of Representatives, then President of the Republic of France. In 1897, after being appointed as Governor General of Indochina, French colonial policy turned to a new turning point. Under his time, the Indochinese infrastructure was massively rebuilt, but the colonists also suffered heavy taxation for this purpose. Long Bien Bridge was one of the largest works in the world at that time.
After returning to France, he continued his political career and was elected President of the Republic of France in 1931 and being assassinated in 1932.
Information in the article is taken from Paul Doumer's Indochinese Memoirs, some of which are presented and interpreted through the eyes of a colonial ruler, so it may be subjective, one-sided and not true. However, this is still an useful document for those who are interested.