HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam's railway sector needs drastic restructuring in order to compete with other means of transport, said Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang.
For years, Vietnamese people have associated trains with overcrowding, delays and long queues to buy tickets, especially on holidays, the minister said.
Speaking at a recent meeting with the State-owned Viet Nam Railway Corporation, a major railway operator in the country, Thang said that these problems remained pervasive.
Additionally, traveling by rail remains expensive, despite the system's many flaws. A ticket for the 30-hour rail journey from Ha Noi to HCM City cost VND1.9 million (US$90), while traveling by plane took only 3-4 hours and cost about VND1.2 million ($57).
"When new expressways from Ha Noi to Lao Cai, Thai Nguyen and Hai Phong open, the railway will face even tougher competition," he said.
Deputy General Director of the Viet Nam Railway Corporation Tran Phuc Tien admitted that the sector faced many challenges including an outdated ticket buying system, poor on-train services, insufficient infrastructure and higher fares than other means of transport.
Chairman of the corporation Tran Ngoc Thanh said that this year, the corporation would focus on implementing technology and selecting key projects on which to allocate its limited resources.
Thanh added that the corporation would apply automatic ticket selling technology by August.
Early last month, the corporation agreed to borrow Tien Phong Joint Stocks Commercial Bank VND2 trillion ($95 million) to improve railway facilities.
The bank will also help the corporation develop an online ticket selling system that allows passengers to pay for train tickets with bank cards, Thanh said.
Viet Nam has about 2,600 kilometres of railway, which connects with rail in China and has potential to connect with Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Laos. — VNS