Hanoi metro line runs a deficit. So what?

By Phu   June 20, 2022 | 04:38 pm PT
Hanoi metro line runs a deficit. So what?
People walk inside a station of Hanoi's Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line, November 20, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu
Hanoi's Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line had a deficit of VND54 billion ($2.35 million) in its first year in operation. This does not call for any breast beating.

The 2A line of the project, spanning 13 km, had a total investment cost of $552.8 million back in 2008, before ballooning to $868 million in 2017. The line was launched in November 2021 and a 2021 financial report by the Hanoi Railways Company (Hanoi Metro) that operates the line revealed that its revenue in 2021 reached VND5 billion, but its deficit was VND54 billion. Together with other costs and deficits in 2020, the company's accumulated deficit is estimated at VND160 billion.

So, was the metro a wise investment?

The purpose of public transport has always been to relieve traffic burden and to provide people with an accessible, affordable method to move around. As long as they stay "public", it will be difficult to generate a profit as the point is to let as many people as possible access daily transportation.

But what the metro lacks in profit, it delivers in many other aspects. It helps generate profit in many other fields, which should more than make up for the apparent losses it incurs.

For example, someone using a personal vehicle could get stuck in a traffic jam for hours. The metro is not affected by any traffic jam and trips should only take around 30 minutes. With a large number of commuters, the amount of time saved would be tremendous.

Major cities around the world treat public transport as an essential form of traffic, building complex networks for it. We cannot deny the benefits of public transport to the population.

The Cat Linh-Ha Dong is Vietnam’s first metro line ever, and it is far from perfect. But once the public transportation network is developed enough, we will see how efficient it can be. At that point, I believe people will switch to the metro as a more convenient method of transportation.

What we should do is improve its management and investment mechanisms, so that future lines are well-connected and everyone can access it from any location in the city.

Some people complain about having to walk 1-2 km to reach a station, but I think that’s normal. The same thing happens everywhere around the world and people do it every day. You can’t expect metro stations to be as close to each other as bus stations.

There are still so many flaws that plague the Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line. It will take time before we can correct them all, but, as they say, all good things take time. Be patient. If more people understand and appreciate the value of public transport, as they will in due course, I’m sure the metro will see moment under the sun.

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