Officials in Ho Chi Minh City are seeking to claw back more than a year’s delay in the development of the 21km east-west highway, which includes a tunnel under the Saigon river, in southern Vietnam.

The scheme has been delayed because of problems choosing a design and build contractor. A successful firm is likely to be appointed in July.

Vietnamese officials are now asking the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, which is providing 85% of the finance, to approve initial site clearance, which is due for completion by June 2002.

They also want to reduce the number of construction sections from eight to five.

Main tunnel construction is due to start early next year and the highway is scheduled to open to traffic in 2005.