For traffic weary Hanoi commuters, metro a ‘dream come true’

By Dat Nguyen, Long NguyenNovember 6, 2021 | 05:14 pm PT
Hanoian commuters are excited, even thrilled, at the prospect of getting to work and back without the draining, frustrating daily experience of being stuck in traffic jams.

For them, Vietnam's first metro line, the Cat Linh - Ha Dong route in the capital city, offers hope that their daily commute is faster, more convenient and less harmful to their health.

Nguyen The Thanh, 26, has lived the daily nightmare of traveling 10 kilometers from his house in Ba Dinh District to Ha Dong District for a long, long time.

When the Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line opened Saturday morning, the IT engineer could not wait to go for a ride, and experience as easier daily commute to work and back.

"When I saw the metro line under construction, I yearned for the day I could ride one of the trains and escape my daily traffic-jam torture. Now my dream has come true," he said, as he set out for the Cat Linh Station to try the country’s first metro.

Thanh is one of hundreds of excited residents waiting to try out the route and find an escape from the daily drudgery of rush hour traffic jams that have plagued major cities in Vietnam because of a lack of efficient public transportation and the resultant large number of personal vehicles – motorbikes and cars – on the road.

Hanoi Deputy Chairman Duong Duc Tuan said the metro line would help increase the number of public transport users, and together with the nine other routes planned, form a key transport network that will reduce traffic congestion.

The train stamps in Cat Linh Station in Hanoi, Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Cat Linh metro station in Hanoi, Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Among people waiting at the Cat Linh Station early Saturday morning were many families, groups of elderly people and friends. Some people made it a festive occasion, wearing the traditional ao dai for their first metro experience.

"I used the metro when I was in the Soviet Union in the 1970s, so I’m thrilled to see we now have a metro line of our own," said La Tan Thanh, a Dong Da District resident.

In the crowded waiting hall of Cat Linh Station, Nguyen Phuong Dung, who had brought her family along for the ride, said: "The metro line's construction started when I was in high school. Now I am married and have a daughter already."

Built by China Railway Sixth Group Co Ltd, the project took 10 years to complete with many hurdles and conflicts delaying the work several times.

Next to Phuong, many young people were taking photos of the station and themselves on the noisy platform.

As the train entered the station, the excitement among the people was palpable, many trying to capture the first moment of entering the train with their cameras. Elderly people in the crowd found entering the train a bit of a struggle.

The train is filled with passengers, Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dat Nguyen

All seats taken on a train running Vietnam’s first metro route, Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dat Nguyen

‘On par’

Many people are not only relieved that their wait for a modern metro line is over, but also proud that new means of public transportation will help modernize their city.

"Hanoi is now on par with other modern cities in the world," said Hoang Minh Thuy, a university student riding one of the shiny new trains with her classmates.

Truong Vinh Tien, 66, resident of Dong Da District, said: "I only travel by bus usually, and now have another option, this is so convenient."

Inside the shiny, air-conditioned carriages, hundreds of first-time passengers took photos of themselves and the city through the glass windows, wearing face masks.

"This is very modern, I feel like I am in Bangkok," said Do Truong Tan, an engineer traveling with his family.

For most commuters, the metro line is a symbol of the city's development.

"The train is very smooth and convenient for the disabled, the old and pregnant women... I am so proud," said Nguyen Thi My Hanh, 30, who has worked on the project.

In the first week, the service will run from 5.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day with a train every 15 minutes. The frequency will be increased from the second week onwards with a train leaving every 10 minutes.

After six months, the service will be extended to 10.30 p.m., with a train every six minutes during rush hour.

On a video call with his mother from the new train, Thanh said: "I would love to go to work on this train every day."

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