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Severe competitiveness between legal and illegal inter-provincial buses

Update: November, 19/2018 - 08:00
Hà Nội Traffic Inspection officers fine a limousine for picking up passengers along a street. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Booking a car to travel from Hà Nội to another province has never been easier.

By picking up the phone and calling a number, Phương Minh can book a four-seater car to go back to her hometown in northern Tuyên Quang Province every weekend direct to her front door.

“Because passengers do not have to take a taxi to the coach station, this type of transportation offers convenient and cheap service for the whole family,” she said.

This type of service is called passenger transport contract which means the route, pick-up, drop-off stops will be fixed in the contract between the driver and passengers.

However, many contract car service providers have recently been accused of flouting the laws. The car owners had registered to run business as contract transport services but in fact, their service is operated on fixed inter-provincial routes like coaches departing from stations.

As contract service cars, from the outside they look like 16-seated buses, but inside have only nine seats, arranged like a coach.

These buses are called the “limousine service”, implying that they are top quality and pick up passengers along the streets or gathering stops, mostly near coach stations in Hà Nội such as Giáp Bát, Nước Ngầm, Mỹ Đình.

The contract service cars are supposed to have fixed contracts with passengers including pick-up time and place. The list of passenger names must be completed before the journey. But in fact, the limousine drivers try to collect passengers along the way first and fill in their names later.

Passengers prefer standing along the streets to take the illegal buses instead of entering coach stations and buy tickets. For them, the main reason is that flagging down one of these cars on the street is more convenient than having to take a taxi to reach coach station.

According to Hà Nội’s Transport Department, the illegal operation of these buses not only causes chaos to the city’s traffic congestion but also creates an unhealthy competitiveness environment.

Vũ Văn Tú from Ninh Bình Transportation Joint Stock Company told Vietnam News Agency that the buses departing from stations follow regulations of tax and fees but can not compete with illegal inter-provincial buses picking up passengers on the streets.

“The company has to borrow loans from the bank to maintain the operation of 90 per cent of buses. Buses depart every five to seven minutes. There are only three to five passengers on each bus,” he said.

Many coach operators complained the ticket prices are not enough to cover fuel expenses.

Phương Trang – a large bus operator – also faces tough time. The increase of illegal inter-provincial buses, has seen a drop in their passengers.

“We don’t pick up passengers on the way and depart from coach station even when there is only one passenger. And we are suffering from big losses,” Lê Thị Liên from Phương Trang Coach Company told Vietnam News Agency.

We have sold four of 16 coaches, she said, adding to ensure fairness, all buses should depart from the station.

Vũ Văn Viện, director of Hà Nội’s Transport Department said that criteria of passenger service contract registration are not strict and there are allowing companies to flout the laws.

The route surveillance cameras are unable to issue warning automatically. The images need the involvement of police officers while the authorised forces are not always available to supervise violations, he said.

Director Viện said the department will re-arrange inter-provincial coach routes. City bus systems will take on the task of transporting passengers from inter-provincial coach stations to city centre or between stations.

The department will first launch city bus route connecting Giáp Bát, Nước Ngầm stations with city centre and areas in the west and northwest of the city to facilitate residents travelling in Hồng (Red) River Delta, he said. — VNS

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