Saigon's planned bus rapid transit hits speed bump over viability concerns

By Huu Cong   September 10, 2017 | 03:52 pm GMT+7
Saigon's planned bus rapid transit hits speed bump over viability concerns
Ho Chi Minh City has suspended a bus rapid transit plan on Vo Van Kiet - Mai Chi Tho boulevards. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Cong

New estimates say the $144 million project would not attract enough passengers to justify its cost.

Ho Chi Minh City’s municipal administration has decided to suspend plans to build the city’s first bus rapid transit system (BRT) after being told by the transport department that the project might cause more harm than good.

According to the department, only 17,700 passengers would use this BRT route from Vo Van Kiet and Mai Chi Tho boulevards rather than the 24,700 previously projected by the city’s government.

This figure is not that much higher than the number of people who already use conventional buses, and even lower on some routes, while the BRT would cost an estimated $144 million.

As a backup plan, the city will turn to improving existing services.

Luong Minh Phuc, director of the Urban Civil Works Construction Investment Management Authority of HCMC (UCCI), agreed with the city’s decision to change the plan.

"Having assessed Hanoi’s BRT route and experiences in South America, Europe and Asia, we don't think HCMC is ready to have one yet," Phuc said. The city should upgrade and operate a high-quality bus route from Vo Van Kiet to Mai Chi Tho for five to ten years before upgrading to a BRT, he added.

The UCCI was selected as the main investor for the city’s first BRT route that would have run 23 kilometers (14 miles) through districts 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, Binh Tan and Binh Chanh.

The government had approved six BRT routes for HCMC.

HCMC currently has three high-quality bus routes that connect Tan Son Nhat International Airport with the downtown, hospitals and coach stations.

Buses on these routes have low-emission engines which meet European standards, surveillance cameras and improved safety for passengers.