Hanoi, which has more than five million mopeds, inaugurated its first urban rail line on Saturday, as authorities try to ease the traffic and pollution that increasingly weighs on the Vietnamese capital.
After years of delays and construction costs nearly doubling, a train left Cat Linh station near the city center to begin its 13-kilometer journey to the densely populated east.
“I decided to try it because I was curious,” Nguyen Thi Thu told AFP in the busy compartment of a Chinese-made train.
“I am so happy to be able to adopt after all the postponement.”
Passengers rushed to form a pose in front of the shiny new train, before watching young children in wonder through large windows in the high-speed Vietnamese capital.
The buzzing metropolitan area of ninety million people is known around the world for the throngs of mopeds that fill city streets and make life dangerous for pedestrians.
Police say that the number of two-wheelers on the road has increased from 20 lakh in 2008 to 57 lakh in 2020.
The number of cars also increased from 185,000 to 700,000 during the same period.
Locals are often stuck in traffic jams for hours, and some prefer to take the bus, which is by far the only public transport option available.
According to Hanoi’s Department of Environmental Protection, traffic is also a major source of air pollution in the capital.
During the winter months, the Air Quality Index (AQI) often reaches “unhealthy” levels.
“The railway will reduce traffic, limit the number of private vehicles, reduce environmental pollution, and contribute to the transformation of journeys in city centres,” Wu Hong Son of the Ministry of Transport said on Saturday.
The Kat Linh–Ha Dong line took ten years to complete, construction of which has been halted repeatedly due to safety concerns and rising costs, costing approximately $900 million per year.
There are plans for nine additional lines to Hanoi by 2030.
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