Few passengers, but trains provide key public service

By Hung Le   November 16, 2018 | 05:00 pm PT
Few passengers, but trains provide key public service
A worker operating a railway switch in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress
Many train routes in Vietnam are suffering heavy losses with few passengers; nevertheless, they serve a crucial function.

Some trains from Hanoi to northern localities of Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, and Ha Long, leave with just a handful of passengers from the point of departure, and only pick up a few more on the way.

Most of the passengers are small, individual traders of agricultural produce and products who transport their goods by train.

Transportation experts say that roads from Hanoi to these locations are so developed and convenient that it is hard for rail transport to compete with road transport.

For instance, a train from Hanoi to Ha Long takes nearly seven hours, although it costs only VND20,000- 80,000 ($0.86-3.44). In contrast, car travel takes just an hour and a half.

Without enough passengers, many railway routes are suffering heavy losses. According to the Hanoi Railway Transport JSC (HARACO), in 2017, three routes – Hanoi-Lang Son, Hanoi-Thai Nguyen and Hanoi-Ha Long – suffered losses of VND8 billion ($344,448), VND 5.7 billion ($245,419) and VND 7.5 billion ($322,897) respectively.

However, the routes still have to be operated to serve a portion of the population that depend on them to sustain their livelihoods.

Nguyen Viet Hiep, general director of HARACO, said the company has implemented many solutions to attract passengers and improve business efficiency on all routes, but they have not been very effective.

In June 2018, HARACO requested competent authorities for subsidies to run the three routes from Hanoi to Thai Nguyen, Lang Son, and Ha Long to continue to provide the public service.

Vietnam currently has over 3,000 kilometers of railway tracks, none of them high-speed. All Vietnamese trains run on diesel, while Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Japan and China have electric railway systems.

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