Pre-Tet Covid wave takes heavy toll on bus companies

By Doan Loan   February 26, 2021 | 03:00 am PT
Pre-Tet Covid wave takes heavy toll on bus companies
A bus from Hanoi to Hai Phong City carries only two passengers, February 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Duy.
With Covid-19 drying up travel demand, many bus operators have been forced to scale down operations or sell their vehicles to pay off debts.

These days Sao Viet Company’s from Hanoi to Lao Cai Province on the China border carry only 5-10 passengers per trip.

Since the Covid reemerged in late January people who had booked tickets have been canceling them en masse, Do Van Bang, the company director, said.

Sao Viet has reduced its services by half to around 20 a day, but still gets few passengers.

"We hoped for an increase in the number of passengers during the peak Lunar New Year (Tet) season (in February), but all hopes were dashed by the latest outbreak," Bang said.

"We are facing increasing losses, and the pressure to pay off debts after two consecutive years of suffering due to Covid-19 made me want to sell all my buses but no one dares buy at this time."

Other transport companies face the same dilemma.

Dat Cang Transport and Service Joint Stock Company of Hai Phong City has 65 buses plying on the route to Hanoi.

Though it has cut down the number of trips by 80 percent, some buses still carry only two or three passengers, Khuc Huu Thanh, its director, said, adding if the situation lasts much longer, the company has to suspend operations.

Transport firms said they had managed to hold on last year despite the pandemic thanks to Tet revenues.

But this year Tet revenues took a huge hit due to the travel restrictions, lockdowns and quarantine requirements, and many transport companies have been unable to cope.

Nguyen Cong Hung, vice chairman of the Vietnam Automobile Transport Association, said the revenues of many transport firms are down 70 percent.

The association plans to ask the government for a 50 percent cut in taxes and delaying repayment of debts.

Since January 28, there have been 827 cases of Covid in 13 localities, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

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