Two railway companies in Vietnam that jointly operate SE6 trains traveling from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi have agreed to reduce the number of free meals served on board from four to three meals per passenger due to plenty of leftovers.
According to Saigon Railways and Hanoi Railways, although the trains travel a full length of 1,726 kilometers between the two Vietnamese cities, most passengers only buy tickets for short distances and have little demand for in-train meals.
In addition, a large number of passengers do not touch the last meal served on the 35-hour train, as the serving time is too close to the train’s arrival at its last station in Hanoi.
SE6 is among four trains running between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi involved in a pilot scheme to offer free catering on board, in an effort by Vietnam Railways to attract more passengers in the face of growing competition from air travel.
A standard portion of four meals and a snack per passenger has been served on all SE6 trains since January 10, according to the pilot scheme that was planned to last for two months.
The airline-quality food is cooked beforehand and kept in cool storage, and is reheated before serving.
Passengers on the four trains with free catering – SE3, SE4, SE5 and SE6 – have been asked to fill out surveys giving their feedback on the meals, based on which the train operators will decide whether to continue offering the service.
Along with free catering, six modern trains have also been added to Vietnam’s north-to-south railway system starting January 10.
The locally made trains, consisting of a total of 90 cars, are part of a project worth VND957 billion (US$42.1 million) to uplift the image of Vietnamese trains.