By the time you read this, Saigon’s new water bus service will have launched. Initially planned to begin operations in June, the service has been highly anticipated; in some quarters heralded (or hexed?) as a panacea for the city’s increasingly congested streets and motorways (cross fingers, look to the sky).
The first phase (Route 1) is an 11km, seven-stop service that will take commuters from Bach Dang Wharf in District 1 on Ton Duc Thang to Linh Dong Ward in Thu Duc.
The second phase (Route 2) is 10km long and will pass through the canals of Ben Nghe and Tau Hu via Districts 1, 4, 5, 6 and 8.
Rumours that a route to District 7 will open up in 2018 were also confirmed by a spokesperson for the project just days prior to the Nov. 25 launch.
The price of a ticket is a flat VND15,000 per person, whether commuters ride one stop or go the full distance.
Up to 10 boats that can comfortably accommodate 60 passengers each will be part of the phase one rollout.
Word was invited to a media event prior to the official Nov. 25 launch to experience the Route 1 service from Bach Dang Wharf to Kinh Dong Ward and back.
The powerful twin diesel engine, twin-hulled vessels are spacious inside with practical seating and ample headroom for most commuters. There are bathroom facilities onboard with rumours that light snacks will also be available. Inside the cabin there is plenty of standing room and space for commuters travelling with luggage and strollers. However, it’s unclear as to whether cyclists will be able to transport their bikes onboard.
There’s no doubting the potential for the water bus service with people living along Route 1 the lucky ones to test it out first. The two routes are expected to serve up to 5,000 passengers a day, a small drop in the ocean compared to the number of commuters coming in and out of Saigon. But it’s a massive step forward towards finding a solution to the gridlock that currently chokes the city.
PHOTO BY MATT COWAN
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