Scofflaws thwart Hanoi’s new 'rapid' transit system
Hanoi's new rapid transit buses were mired in rush hour traffic during their maiden voyage on Thursday morning.
The fleet of 20 new buses spent nearly an hour on the 14-kilometer route between Kim Ma and Yen Nghia, the most populated areas of the city.
The 14km route covered by Hanoi's new bus rapid transit system. Ilustration by VnExpress/Tien Thanh, Ba Do
The rapid transit system hinges on exclusive bus lanes marked out by white lines that many of the city's commuters simply ignored.
Vu Ha, director of Hanoi Urban Transport Development Project Management Unit, said that without a physical divider, “the buses weren't as rapid as expected.”
Hanoi’s transport officials said they plan to restrict motor vehicles on some streets and overpasses during rush hours to facilitate the new service.
They said the trial, which will continue through the end of the month, will give them a clearer idea of specific adjustments they should adopt to make the system more effective.
Vietnam's first rapid transit system will connect downtown Hanoi to Giang Vo and Lang Ha streets, where many restaurants, office towers, residential buildings and diplomatic missions are located.
The journey is expected to take only 45 minutes, but took 56 -- same as what it takes a normal bus.
The project began three years ago and missed its initial launch deadline last year. The system cost around $55 million to implement and was funded by the World Bank.
The system will offer free rides for a month starting this Sunday.
Hanoi's new rapid buses piled up in traffic during their first run on Thursday morning; they were supposed to run at least seven minutes apart. Photo by VnExpress/Phuong Son
Buses provide Vietnam's only means of public transportation. They were very common in Hanoi during the 2000s, but ridership has steadily declined.
The number of passengers was down 8.5 percent from 2014 to 430 million last year, and dropped 9.5 percent during the first seven months of this year, according to figures from Hanoi’s transport department.
Constant traffic jams have slowed bus travel to a crawl.