A total 152 trains have been suspended as travel demand plummets due to the novel coronavirus, leaving the railway sector facing losses of VNĐ90 billion (US$3.8 million) since the outbreak began, according to the Ministry of Transport.
A carriage of Hà Nội – Yên Bái train is completely empty. The train was rescheduled to run on weekend only.
The ministry warned that worse was to come for the sector, with productivity drastically dropping by 40 to 80 per cent compared to the same time last year.
Vũ Anh Minh, head of Vietnam Railway (VNR) Members’ Council, said the challenges were unprecedented.
As of Thursday, Hà Nội Railway Transport Company halted all tourism trains numbered SP1, SP2, SP3 and SP4 connecting Hà Nội and the northern mountainous province of Lào Cai.
SE19 and SE20 trains connecting Hà Nội and the coastal city of Đà Nẵng were also suspended. Passengers can ask for ticket refunds without being charged fees.
Trains running between Hà Nội and Nghệ An Province’s Vinh City, Hải Phòng City and Thái Nguyên Province were also cancelled or rescheduled.
The company is considering suspending one pair of Reunification trains connecting Hà Nội and HCM City, only allowing four pairs per day.
In the south, Sài Gòn Railway Transport Company has stopped trains travelling to the tourism hotspots of Quy Nhơn, Đà Nẵng and Phan Thiết till the end of April.
To help stop the bleeding, the ministry asked the Government to reduce operating expenses for halted trains.
Sài Gòn Railway Transport Company is also offering up to 50 per cent off early bookings for trains numbered SE3/4, SE7/8, SE9/10 with transport distances of more than 900km and SE21/22, SE25/26 with distances of more than 600km.
Discounts of 5 per cent, 10 per cent, 20 per cent and 50 per cent will be applied for tickets bought five, 10 to 19, 20 to 29 and 30 to 39 days prior to departure days, respectively.
To make up for the losses, VNR is accelerating its express delivery services using passenger trains which allow transporting bulk packages and cash on delivery. — VNS