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Jury still out on new work hours

Update: February, 07/2012 - 10:07

 

Parents wait to pick up their children in front of Ngo Si Lien Secondary School yesterday. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
HA NOI — While city authorities are waiting for more information to decide whether on not to adjust the current changes to work and school hours in Ha Noi to reduce traffic congestion, the transport sector has called for increased vigilance near railway tracks, where there have been some serious accidents.

Speaking at a press conference in Ha Noi yesterday, Deputy Minister of Transport Le Manh Hung said the on-going project to stagger start times had received a variety of opinions but it was impossible to evaluate the project after just one week of implementation.

"In reality as I also used my personal vehicle to go around the city, there were almost no traffic jams, just a little bit of congestion towards the end of the working day," Hung said.

"Some claimed this was not the right time to evaluate the situation since the total number of people in traffic still lacks students who have not yet returned to universities, so we need to wait for more results."

Answering questions from Viet Nam News, the deputy minister said his ministry's Department of Transport would monitor progress over the next 20 days and then work with relevant officials in Ha Noi to review the implementation and make any further adjustments.

"We will base our actions on reality and recommendations from households and schools to make changes for different schools and ages," Hung said.

"If the project is unsuccessful, the ministry and relevant offices would take responsibility."

Meanwhile, the number of railway accidents in the first months of the year has decreased, although a number of abnormally serious cases were reported.

Most recently, in the first four days of February, Viet Nam News received news about five cases of railway accidents in central Quang Ngai Province, Ha Noi's Dong Anh District, the northern province of Ha Nam, the central province of Nghe An and central Da Nang City. Nine were killed and 10 others injured. Most victims were reportedly walking or driving cars or motorbikes over the cross-roads while trains were approaching.

Deputy Minister Hung said that along more than 1,700 km of railways from Ha Noi to HCM City, there were 1,400 licensed cross-roads and more than 5,000 illegal cross-roads.

"Accordingly, in every 300 metres of railway track, and in some places only 100-200 metres, there is a cross-roads," Hung said. "So railway accidents can easily happen at these sites."

Citing some cases of passengers and drivers ignored the alarm signals and barriers, Hung said that besides infrastructure systems, a decrease of cases of railway accidents depended a lot on people's awareness.

General Director of the Viet Nam Railways Nguyen Dat Tuong said that such accidents were also headaches for his sector.

"The accidents caused pressure and anxiety for train drivers, especially those who face such accidents," he said.

According to Tuong, railway accidents in the first month of the year had decreased both in the number of cases, deaths and injuries.

"My sector has worked and found more sources to build more barriers and protective fences between the railway tracks and main roads," he said.

In general, the traffic accidents nationwide in January reportedly decreased over the same period last year, by 16.4 per cent in terms of cases, 10.3 per cent of deaths and 18 per cent of injuries. There were 1,031 accidents, killing 925 and injuring 761.

Residents' opinions

Ha Noi Party Committee Secretary Pham Quang Nghi yesterday confirmed that the city had implemented the work hour adjustment based on careful consideration. However, city authorities would pay attention to resident's opinions and the effects of the time change.

Nghi's deputy Tuong Phi Chien, told a meeting between the city's Party leaders and People's Committee members traffic congestion had improved and traffic flow during rush hour at hot spots such as the streets of Truong Chinh, Chua Boc, Tay Son, Pham Ngoc Thach, Dai La, Nguyen Trai and Cau Giay had improved significantly.

"It takes 15-20 minute less than before to travel from Ha Dong District to the city Party Committee's headquarters [about 10 km]."

He said the public transport system ran smoothly and was not overcrowded.

Chien also said the school hours of high school students began at 7am and ended at 7pm, which made daily routines for teachers, students and their families difficult.

The operation of the city's light system has yet to be adjusted with the new school hours so it caused difficulties for students and office workers when travelling in the early morning or late afternoon.

Nghi said the city would keep analysing the disadvantages of the new work hours and listen to the opinions of schools and offices related to the issue.

The municipal People's Committee will put forward some initiatives to decrease these disadvantages in the coming time.

Specifically, the light system will be adjusted flexibly to make it suitable with the new work hours and an increase in the number of buses operating during rush hour between 6am and 9am and between 4.30pm and 7.30pm.

Trucks are not allowed to travel on the second ring road between 6am and 9pm to further improve traffic flow.

Nghi said the city would implement other solutions to ease traffic jams in conjunction with these time changes, including improving the progress of traffic construction works, banning taxis during rush hour and vendors in public places. — VNS

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