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Saigon river bus fails to attract regular commuters

The Sai Gon river bus, launched with fanfare two years ago in HCM City, has not proved to be popular with commuters.

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Passengers on a river bus on the Saigon River. — VNA/VNS Photo

Mai Thi Xuan Trang and her friend from Khanh Hoa Province visited HCM City and took the river bus to see the city from a different perspective.

"I think many visitors coming to Sai Gon want to experience the river bus for sightseeing. But unfortunately the services on the boat and at the stations are nothing special and so it is difficult to get visitors to return," she told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper.

Pham Van Lam of Linh Dong Ward of Thu Duc District, who works in District 1 and is a regular user of the boats between Bach Dang Wharf in District 1 and Linh Dong, said: "Taking the river bus helps me stay away from the traffic congestion while enjoying the early morning air. Many people choose to go by boat on a regular basis.”

But the services from Linh Dong in the morning are only at 6:30am and 7am and not until 9am again, and this is inconvenient for many office workers, he said.

Other drawbacks are that in many places the river bus station is far away from residential areas and there are no buses linking them and most stations lack parking space for passengers’ vehicles, he said, adding that is why the service is failing to attract more users.

The service, launched in November 2017, was expected to become a popular option considering the severe congestion on roads.

According to regular commuters, many 75-seat boats leave stations with only 10 passengers on board on weekdays.

Nguyen Kim Toan, director of Thuong Nhat Co., Ltd., which operates the service, said route No.1 (Bach Dang - Linh Dong route through Districts 2 and Binh Thanh) served 291,000 passengers last year.

On average, there are 22 trips on the route each day and 880 passengers, but during weekends the boats operate at 95 per cent capacity, he said.

The number of passengers increased from the previous year though not significantly, he said.

According to a city Department of Transport official, many measures are planned to attract more passengers.

The department would work with bus transport operators to ensure some bus routes touch the river bus stations, he said.

It also plans to add services on shore and on board and build parking spaces near wharfs, he said.

The department is collaborating with relevant agencies to acquire land for building more river bus stations.

Toan said his company plans to launch the 10km route No.2 from Bach Dang to Lo Gom in District 8 by the end of this year.

According to the department, construction work related to two infrastructure projects had prevented the launch of the second route, but the works are likely to be finished this year. — VNS

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