Saigon plans congestion charge to combat traffic chaos

By Huu Cong   September 18, 2017 | 05:10 pm GMT+7
Saigon plans congestion charge to combat traffic chaos
Ho Chi Minh City plans to impose a fee on autos entering the city center in an effort to deal with urban gridlock. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran

The charge could come into force at the same time the city's first metro line is launched in 2020.

Ho Chi Minh City is considering a plan to introduce a congestion charge in the city center to restrict the number of four-wheel vehicles there.

To collect the charges, the city will need to build 36 toll stations circling the downtown, according to the plan developed by the city-based Innovative Technology Development Corporation (ITD).

Bui Xuan Cuong, director of HCMC's Department of Transport, said the goal is to fight urban gridlock, not to collect road maintenance fees.

"Legally speaking, Vietnam does not have any regulations on collecting congestion charges, but HCMC has asked for special approval from the central government to adopt this plan, and the money collected will go to the city’s budget,” said Cuong.

The transport department has instructed ITD to poll opinions from other departments before moving ahead with a feasibility study for the project.

“Given the current progress, it is possible that HCMC could launch this project at the same time as its first metro line in 2020,” he said.

According to the plan, drivers who enter the city center between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. will have to pay a fee of VND30,000 ($1.3) to VND50,000 depending on the type of vehicle.

The fees should be lower for taxis and people living in the area, said the plan, which will cost an estimated VND1.2 trillion ($53 million).

However, many have questioned whether the plan will really help to reduce traffic, and if it will force people to pay a number of different fees just to drive around the city.

But it looks like the city's administration has made its mind up after carefully weighing it up for years.

In 2010, the city agreed with ITD’s proposal to collect fees from autos that enter the city's downtown areas.

Two years later, a complete plan was sent to the city’s government for approval, but it has been on hold since then.

Late last year, the city’s mayor asked the transport department to work with ITD to adjust the plan to handle traffic jams in the city center.

According to ITD, motorbikes are the main means of transport in the city, making up more than 80 percent of the traffic volume.

Therefore, it would be impossible to limit or collect fees from motorbike drivers, and applying Singapore’s model of charging car drivers in the downtown would be a much better solution for HCMC.

In July, the city came up with a roadmap to limit private vehicles in order to ease traffic congestion.

But Cuong, the transport director, said that the city would not ban motorbikes before 2030.

“Only when it's proven that the city's public transport is capable of meeting people's travel demands will we consider banning motorbikes,” he said.