Rail tourism chugs slowly ahead

Published: 17/03/2011 05:00



Poor infrastructure and service and a lack of co-ordination
between the railway and tourism sectors are making train travel less attractive
to tourists.

leaving the train at Lao Cai Station in the northern province of Lao Cai. Poor
infrastructure and service quality makes Viet Nam’s train travel less attractive
to tourists. (Photo: VNS)

Statistics released by the Viet Nam Railway Department showed railway revenues
remain modest, hovering at about 7 per cent of the country’s transport market.

year Viet Nam received more than 5 million foreign tourists. Up to 83 per cent
of them opted for plane for domestic trips, but those choosing railway remained

Sylvia Beales found it convenient to travel to northern Lao Cai Province by
train rather than bus because it was safer and cleaner. “But it is not the same
with other routes, whose rail service remains poor and unhygienic,” she added.

A local
passenger, Nguyen Thi Huong, agreed that was best to go to such places like Lao
Cai by train because the price was not too high and the trip was not as tiring
as going by bus.

“I hope
services on all trains will improve to the standard offered on the train to Lao
Cai Province,” Huong said, “Then, I would go by train for the rest of my life.”

head of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism Nguyen Manh Cuong said
local railway tourism was poor compared with other countries.

He cited
unimproved and winding rail tracks for the slow journeys to many destinations.
The problem was exacerbated by poor rail service on most of trains.

According to deputy director of the Viet Nam Railway Department Nguyen Van Doanh,
the railway sector requires a huge investment at the beginning and it takes
several decades to retrieve the principal and interest. “This is why few
investors are interested in investing in railway infrastructure,” said Doanh.

investment is small and fails to meet demand,” he added. Fund shortages had left
most compartments on trains in shabby condition.

said the railway sector had only focused on maintaining the operation of
existing rail routes and was incapable of investing in upgrading old routes and
opening new ones.

He said
many rail routes were operating perfunctorily and cited the case of the Ha
Noi-Quang Ninh rail. The route, which opened in 2009, has attracted few
passengers. This is why the railway sector holds only 7 per cent of the
transport market.

The most
popular routes are Ha Noi-Lao Cai, Ha Noi-Vinh, HCM City-Nha Trang, HCM City-Phan
Thiet and the North-South train.

According to the head of Sa Pa train No1, Pham Duc Van, the Ha Noi-Lao Cai route
produces the highest turnover for the railway sector since travel companies
began co-operation with the railway sector about seven years ago to upgrade
infrastructure, improve railroad cars and training railway service staff.

train is always full of foreign visitors and those passengers who come from the
south of Viet Nam during holidays,” said Van.

are between four and five train trips from Ha Noi to Lao Cai Province every
night. It is a unique route that pulls in more and more passengers each year.

Statistics from the Viet Nam Railway Department showed the number of tourists
taking the route had increased from 57 per cent of passengers in 2007 to 68 per
cent last year.

travel firms say Viet Nam has rail transport but no sophisticated packages. They
argued that Viet Nam must meet the demand for improved rail services.

deputy head of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) Nguyen
Manh Cuong, said teaching rail service staff foreign languages was essential.

deputy head of the VNAT Travel Department Nguyen Quy Phuong said he hoped
tourism and railway officials would get together to develop rail tourism and
encourage investment in the industry.

director of the Viet Nam Railway Department Nguyen Van Doanh said incentives
should be given to the private sector to join hands with the railway sector in
building infrastructure and improving services.

this, he said the State should help the rail sector develop otherwise it would
continue to be lag behind other transport systems.

Nam News

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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