The one thing most people complain about in Hanoi is the traffic. With over 4.9 million motorbikes on the roads, it’s no surprise that this is a major contributor to discontent. As an attempt to reduce the congestion, the Hanoi Department of Transport has initiated the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system.
Officially launched on Jan. 1, 2017, BRT has been touted as a civilised and modern public transport system that is cost-effective, reliable, disabled-friendly and suited to the transport conditions of the city. The 15km bus route connects Kim Ma Station in Dong Da District with Yen Nghia Station in Ha Dong District and is said to take about 30 minutes. With dedicated bus lanes and traffic lights, the idea, of course, is for the buses to travel faster and more efficiently.
The route runs through some of the city’s major streets: Giang Vo, Lang Ha, Le Van Luong, Le Trong Tan, Tran Phu and Ba La. This allows easy access to places of interest such as the Giang Vo Exhibition Centre, the National Cinema Centre, The American Embassy and more. There are two types of tickets for the buses; a single-journey ticket which costs VND7,000 (the same price as normal buses) and a monthly ticket and student smart pass (between VND55,000 and VND200,000 per month). Waiting times for buses are between five and 15 minutes and a maximum of 90 passengers can fit on a bus. The 24 buses run from 5am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday, with 14 buses on a Sunday.
The new public transport system is modelled on the first BRT system which was developed in 1974 in Curitiba, Brazil. Similar schemes now operate in over 130 cities worldwide, including Beijing, Seoul, Bangkok, Paris and Istanbul. The Hanoi BRT forms part of the Hanoi Urban Transport Development Project and was approved by the Hanoi People’s Committee in 2007. The project started in 2013 with support from the World Bank which invested US$55 million into it.
According to its website, the Hanoi Urban Transport Development Project “aims to increase urban mobility in targeted areas in Hanoi by (i) increasing the use of public transport in two existing and one new corridors; and (ii) reducing travel times by all modes between the city centre and the west and northwest sections of the city (west of West Lake).” Another key objective is to promote more environmentally sustainable modes of transport.
A Rocky Start
Vietnam Breaking News reported last month that the buses have served a total of 65,000 passengers since Jan. 6, and that numbers are increasing daily. Like any new project, however, there have been a few bumps in the road. During the test run in January (when services offered by BRT were free of charge) a bus had its door broken after colliding with a car. Reports say that the car tried to overtake the bus in the BRT lane. A month later, a state-owned blue number-plated car was found travelling along a BRT-only lane. As a consequence, vehicles entering restricted bus lanes are now fined between VND800,000 and VND1.2 million.
President of the Hanoi Public Transport Association, Nguyen Trong Thon, is positive that these minor setbacks won’t hinder the success of the new system. “The BRT system is the start of the second ‘revolution’ for the capital’s buses,” he was reported as saying. “I think travelling by BRT is not just the optimal choice to move but also a selection to show civilised culture of Hanoi.”
The Hanoi Urban Transport Development Project aims to launch seven more BRT routes in the city over the next 13 years. The goal is to have eight routes set up by the year 2030.
For more information visit hanoibrt.vn. The writer was unable to get a response from the Hanoi Department of Transport
Photos by Teigue John Blokpoel