Mekong Delta yet to fully enjoy new bridge's benefits

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Many people in the Mekong Delta are still in favor of unsafe boats to cross the Hau River, although a 2.75-kilometer long bridge was opened late April to facilitate their travel.


Ho Van Nam, deputy chief of sea traffic police in Can Tho City said since Can Tho ferry station was closed after the inauguration of Can Tho Bridge, more and more people from Vinh Long Province chose boats to cross the river to the city for school, work and trades.


However, most of the boats, which are soaring in quantity, failed to meet regulations like unregistered means, unlicensed rowers, and carrying more people than capacity, according to Nam.


In fact, since the ferry station's closure they have fined 292 cases and confiscated 12 boats, police said.


Police's patrol on Thursday, for example, found a boat rowed by 38-year-old Bui Van Mau carrying 75 people and 45 motorbikes, while Mau's boat was designed to carry 45 people at most.


Nguyen Thanh Chien, 37, meanwhile, was found carrying 130 people despite his boat's capacity allowed 49 only. Worse still, Chien doesn't have license for rowing boat, police said.


Accompanying police on the patrol on the 10-kilometer long section of river between Can Tho ferry station and Tra Noc Industrial Zone that day, Thanh Nien reporters observed that at least four boat stations are operating with tens of boats.


Most of boats are unregistered and unequipped with life buoys.

Their passengers are mainly students, workers and others from Vinh Long Province's Binh Minh and Binh Tan districts.


Nguyen Thi My, 48, from Binh Tan District, said when Can Tho ferry station was in operation, it cost them only VND2,000 (U$0.10) to cross the river to Can Tho City.


But, now it cost them over VND20,000 for fuel for a round trip by motorbike via the bridge, My said.


For traders of farm produces who don't have motorbikes, it will cost them over VND100,000 ($5.27) at least to transport goods across the river.


Students, meanwhile, said it's hard to ride bicycle for tens of kilometers to go to school every day.


As buses are unavailable, they have no other choice than turning to boats, although they are aware that trips with such boats are dangerous, passengers told Thanh Nien.


While stressing the soar in dubious boats, Nam said authorities in Can Tho and Vinh Long should open boat stations nearby the old Can Tho ferry station to guarantee the safety of people traveling across the river, especially during the storm and rainy season.


In the meantime, Nguyen Quang Huong, director of Can Tho Ferry- Bridge Standage Joint Stock Company, said his company has asked Can Tho's People's Committee and the city's Transport Department for permission to invest into a new ferry station right at the Can Tho station with some VND40 billion ($2.1 million).


Transport departments in the two localities also planned to open a bus route between Vinh Long, across Can Tho Bridge, and the city's center, according to Huong.


With a total investment capital of US$295 million, including ODA from the Japanese government and reciprocal capital form the Vietnamese government, Can Tho Bridge is Southeast Asia's longest suspension bridge with a main span of 550 meters.

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