Many buses in Vietnam are becoming increasingly worn out and unpleasant for passengers to ride in regarding both the exterior, interior furnishings and services.
Students, local commuters, and even a number of foreign backpackers and long-time expats find buses a cheap means of transport, but the cheap fares do not come without discomfort.
As Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters observed, except for a number of inner-city bus routes, which use new vehicles and have satisfactory customer treatment, many routes involve shabby buses and unfriendly, frustrating service.
According to a leader of a bus cooperative in Ho Chi Minh City, hundreds of its members' buses have been in use since 2002 and sustained serious damage to their exterior and interior furnishings, including threadbare, broken chairs, filthy floors, especially during the rainy season, and out-of-order air conditioning systems.
Buses operating in other provinces are even worse, with their floors usually covered in thick layers of dust, dirt and mud, stuffy air and even intolerable heat due to broken air conditioning systems, and loud engine noises, as an article on Binh Thuan Online, the namesake south-central province's portal, pointed out.
Several emit fumes or break down during the rides, sending passengers into panic.
A broken air-conditioning system on a bus of route 32, one of Ho Chi Minh City's most seriously downgraded, with the passengers seemingly sitting in a sauna room. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Despite state subsidies, bus cooperatives in the country keep complaining about poor profits and thus do not have sufficient money for overhauls.
They mostly undertake patchy, makeshift repairs instead to cut costs, Thanh Nien (Young People) Online said.
Buses are usually filled to the brim with students, especially at rush hour, which is frustrating for passengers and allows pickpockets to operate easily.
Dozens of students are shown being crammed into the aisle of a bus in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The way most bus drivers and attendants treat their clients is also far from satisfactory.
Drivers can purposefully refuse to pick up passengers waiting at bus stops.
A Binh Thuan Online reporter divulged he waited for about 40 minutes for a bus only to see the driver carry on without stopping to pick him up.
Many bus drivers and attendants often yell at customers, and even insult the physically challenged and the elderly whom they blame for wasting their time.
They usually do not come to a complete stop when picking up or dropping off passengers, putting them in real peril.
Some elderly women have broken their legs or arms or suffered head trauma as the bus drivers do not allow them enough time to get off the buses and cause them to fall to the ground.
Attendants also try to stuff many bulky items, including motorbikes, large coils, huge baskets or suitcases, into the buses for more fares.
The items occupy a lot of space and make it more likely for passengers, particularly the elderly or physically challenged, to trip while on the swaying, fast-moving buses.
Several uncovered electricity wires are seen on a bus, numbered 62, in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The Ho Chi Minh City Deparment of Transport told Tuoi Tre on March 17 that 1,625,226 bus passenger rides per day were recorded last year.
Last year saw around 368 million passenger rides, down by 43 million compared to 2013.
This is not the first time that the annual number of bus passenger rides has dropped, the transport department noted.
The year 2013 received 411.20 million rides compared to 413.14 million in 2012.
The department pointed out several reasons for the drop in passengers, including buses’ poor furnishings and inadequate service quality as most of them have been in use for over 10 years.
It has come up with several approaches to draw more passengers in the coming years, including replacing ineffective routes with new ones and building a well-connected bus route grid.
The department is expected to attract roughly 370 million passenger rides this year.
Bus number 05 in Ho Chi Minh City is pictured being loaded with cargo, leaving a female passenger perilously perched on a handle bar next to the door. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A shabby chair on a bus, numbered 33. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Passengers are pictured standing in a Ho Chi Minh City bus. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Several buses are seen moving in and out haphazardly to pick up and drop off passengers at a bus stop in front of Suoi Tien Amusement Park in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City, which places bikers in jeopardy. Photo: Tuoi Tre