|Passengers on a river bus on the Saigon River. — VNA/VNS Photo
HCM CITY — The Sài Gòn river bus, launched with fanfare two years ago in HCM City, has not proved to be popular with commuters.
Mai Thị Xuân Trang and her friend from Khánh Hòa Province visited HCM City and took the river bus to see the city from a different perspective.
"I think many visitors coming to Sài Gòn want to experience the river bus for sightseeing. But unfortunately the services on the boat and at the stations are nothing special and so it is difficult to get visitors to return," she told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
Phạm Văn Lâm of Linh Đông Ward of Thủ Đức District, who works in District 1 and is a regular user of the boats between Bạch Đằng Wharf in District 1 and Linh Đông, said: "Taking the river bus helps me stay away from the traffic congestion while enjoying the early morning air. Many people choose to go by boat on a regular basis.”
But the services from Linh Đông in the morning are only at 6:30am and 7am and not until 9am again, and this is inconvenient for many office workers, he said.
Other drawbacks are that in many places the river bus station is far away from residential areas and there are no buses linking them and most stations lack parking space for passengers’ vehicles, he said, adding that is why the service is failing to attract more users.
The service, launched in November 2017, was expected to become a popular option considering the severe congestion on roads.
According to regular commuters, many 75-seat boats leave stations with only 10 passengers on board on weekdays.
Nguyễn Kim Toản, director of Thường Nhật Co., Ltd., which operates the service, said route No.1 (Bạch Đằng - Linh Đông route through Districts 2 and Bình Thạnh) served 291,000 passengers last year.
On average, there are 22 trips on the route each day and 880 passengers, but during weekends the boats operate at 95 per cent capacity, he said.
The number of passengers increased from the previous year though not significantly, he said.
According to a city Department of Transport official, many measures are planned to attract more passengers.
The department would work with bus transport operators to ensure some bus routes touch the river bus stations, he said.
It also plans to add services on shore and on board and build parking spaces near wharfs, he said.
The department is collaborating with relevant agencies to acquire land for building more river bus stations.
Toản said his company plans to launch the 10km route No.2 from Bạch Đằng to Lò Gốm in District 8 by the end of this year.
According to the department, construction work related to two infrastructure projects had prevented the launch of the second route, but the works are likely to be finished this year. — VNS