Commuters say no to buses in Vietnam metro

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Rundown buses and faciliites as well as bad service is seeing public transportation deteriorate in Ho Chi Minh City despite increasing subsidies, the Saigon Tiep Thi reports.


Several dozen bus routes are operating inefficienty because of decreasing number of passengers, said Phung Dang Hai, director general of HCMC Transport Co-operative, which operates one-third of the local buses.


In fact, in the first nine months of this year, the co-operative has experienced a 10 percent decline in the number of passengers over last year, Hai said in the news source.


The decrease is "considerable", although subsidies were raised to VND700 billion (US$35.9 million) from VND600 billion ($30.8 million) last year, Hai said.


The Saigon Tiep Thi reports that the staff's poor attitude towards passengers, the lack of safety, broken air-conditioning systems and other degraded facilities are discouraging people from opting to take a bus.


Reckless driving, including not slowing down while driving over potholes, and the disregard for passenger comfort was blatant, it reports.


"["¦] it's like torture; no one can stand it," Hoang Vy, a student of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities told the paper. Vy used to take the popular route No.50 to school every day but now she only turns to it when she has no other choice, she said.


The same situation has been reported at other routes of high quality, and it was even worse at normal routes with bad-looking busses, according to the newspaper.


Driver Van T. Dung said that passengers using his bus has reduced sharply over the last few months. He said the buses were not in good condition.


Most local buses have run for nearly ten years and are in need of major maintenance, Hai said, adding that nearly 20 percent of his cooperative's fleet of more than 800 buses are in the same situation.


The general director said although buses are subsidized, current subsidies aren't sufficient for companies already mired in debt.


It was almost impossible to set aside money for re-investment when buses are damaged, he said.


He also blamed the HCMC Center of Public Passenger Transport Vehicles, which still owes businesses a total of VND30 billion ($1.54 million) in subsidies for last year's inflation.


If the center had given them the money right from the beginning of this year, the cooperative's members would have been able to upgrade buses, and prevented the current situation.


Hai suggested authorities force businesses to set aside part of subsidies for maintenance and repairs and allow them to access loans at preferential interest rates..


However, the HCMC Department of Transport has blamed the transportation companies, saying subsidies approved by the city authorities already included repair and maintenance fees as regulated..

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