HCMC terminates three more subsidized bus routes, citing loss

By Minh Nga   June 25, 2020 | 05:03 am PT
HCMC terminates three more subsidized bus routes, citing loss
Commuters ride a public bus in Ho Chi Minh City, March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Lacking commuters, HCMC has decided to kill off three bus routes operating on subsidies starting next month.

Starting July 1, the three routes numbered 02, 11 and 144 will be removed from the Ho Chi Minh City bus map.

Route 02 connects downtown Ben Thanh Market with Mien Tay Bus Station from where passengers travel on to Mekong Delta, route 11 runs from Ben Thanh to Dam Sen, a theme park in District 11, while route 144 links Mien Tay Bus Station with Nhieu Loc Residential Area in Tan Phu District.

The city’s public transport management center under the municipal Department of Transportation said it had failed to attract passengers and the revenue they generated had not been enough to cover expenses.

And as they are all subsidized, the city has suffered losses.

From late 2018 to date, the city has repeatedly stopped operations of its public buses following a lack of passengers. It used to have 136 bus routes, and with the upcoming removal of three more routes, only 129 are left.

Of the remaining, 91 are subsidized.

Writing to the Department of Finance last month, the transportation department asked to raise the public bus subsidy for this year by VND161 billion ($6.92 million) to over VND1.3 trillion ($55.8 million).

The additional sum would improve public bus service quality to make it more attractive to commuters, it said, making it clear that if the additional sum is not approved, more bus routes could be removed because public buses have become even less appealing to passengers in the age of Covid-19.

According to official data, an average 305 million passengers use public buses in HCMC a year back in 2012. For this year, the city had targeted to attract just 147 million.

In the 2014-2018 period, the number of bus passengers in the city had dropped steadily by 6.6 percent each year. Last year, the decreasing ratio was 13 percent against 2018.

City officials said earlier that public buses are luring fewer passengers due to increasing competition from ride-hailing services.

If ride-hailing firms served just 20.6 million passengers back in 2016, they transported as many as 191 million last year.

Le Nguyen Minh Quang, a city legislator, said at a meeting last year heavy congestion was another cause leading to tardy bus services, making passengers lost interest.

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