Mr Yamazaki Akira, a JICA expert on urban railway mechanisms and policies, spoke with VET's Tuong Lam about their experience in developing urban railways and encouraging people to use them.
The Vietnamese Government has a policy for the development of urban railways, which is expected to alleviate congestion in major cities and improve safety and convenience. Do you believe that the current transport plan will see such expectations met?
The area and population of Hanoi is 3,345 square kilometres and 7.1 million people and in Tokyo 2,189 square kilometres and 13.3 million people (in the central districts of Tokyo its 623 square kilometres and 9.1 million people). The total length of the urban railway lines in Tokyo is 1,053 kilometres, including 738 kilometres in the central districts. In the 1950s in Tokyo, a period of high economic growth and rapid increases in population and motor cars, the growth in trams and buses, the major means of public transport at the time, slowed and the existing railway network became overloaded. I think that Hanoi’s rapid population growth will certainly see it become as crowded as Tokyo was at that time.
Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have master plans for developing urban railways and relevant authorities have made efforts to implement urban railway projects. In Japan’s experience, the development of urban railway networks contributed significantly to economic growth. Japan’s urban railway industry continues to innovate and improve convenience for travellers.
|Mr Yamazaki Akira|
How should the urban railway network be constructed and operated to reach expectations?
In Japan, the first underground railway opened in 1927 and was gradually completed to become a transportation network with high speed and large passenger volumes. The network was built by different railway operators and these operators built a transfer system between railway lines to improve convenience. This convenience benefited people compared to previously and then contributed to improving the traffic network in general and cutting travelling time to work and school.
Japan also has experience in ticketing, which helped to improve the operation of the railway network. In 2001, major railway companies in Tokyo began applying an Integrated Circuit (IC) card system, which was the beginning of establishing an IC card system for each type of transport means, like buses. The system expanded to allow travellers to use mutual tickets and since March 2013 the IC system has been integrated across Japan. Vietnam could apply and operate an effective system based on this experience.
What would you recommend the Vietnamese Government do to have specific programmes right now to encourage people to move to trains and buses from personal vehicles?
Last June Singapore approved a policy on free fares for those who travel by public transport during the morning peak hour and created mechanisms for reducing traffic jams by introducing automated toll collections for people travelling to the city centre during peak hours. In Japan, railways are popular because they are fast and punctual and can carry large number of passengers. The railway network can carry half of all travellers in urban areas during working hours. When building areas outside of railway stations, authorities determined how best to transfer people between buses and trains and bicycle parking lots were also built.
To encourage Vietnamese people to change from travelling by personal vehicles to public transport, from the initial period of planning local authorities at all levels must consider the comprehensiveness of the public transport system and develop areas around stations to synchronise with other means of transport. Authorities need to complete bus lines from stations to other destinations, build walkways from train stations to bus stations, and install traffic lights for when walkers cross roads. Many local authorities have considered building new railway stations as a good opportunity to launch other policies that improve convenience in general.
What should be considered when introducing solutions for effectively operating public transport, based on the differences between the travelling habits of Vietnamese people and other similar countries?
Compared with other large cities in Asia, the traffic in Vietnam is mostly two-wheeled. In other cities that have low population density, the number of motor cars is quite high.
If Vietnam wants to effectively operate an urban railway network it needs to consider improving convenience when motorbike users move to other means of transport. For instance, there needs to be motorbike parking lots at railway stations and shopping centres built near central-area stations. There also needs to be half-priced tickets for those who accompany monthly bus ticket holders when they travel together by bus. This measure focuses on the efficiency of improving the environment by using buses that are not normally used. I hope that urban railway projects will raise thoughtful discussions among relevant parties.