With passengers and business partners turning their back on rail transportation over poor service quality and attitude, the country’s railway operator has had to supplicate the dissatisfied customers to come back and give it a chance for improvement.
Tran Ngoc Thanh, chairman of the Vietnam Railways, did not conceal the state-run company’s desperate bid to win back trust from passengers, as he was addressing a meeting to recap last year’s operations in Hanoi on Tuesday.
The Vietnam Railways held a ceremony to show gratitude to its passengers and partners, but the event was in fact “organized to apologize to and beg customers to come back to [us],” Thanh said.
Thanh added many railway companies have treated customers wanting to hire their trains to transport goods with bureaucracy and bad attitude, so “such partners have all parted company with us in recent years.”
“The rail tracks built to serve transportation of chemicals, apatite or cement are therefore left unused,” Thanh added.
The Vietnam Railways chairman admitted that some firms still have an obsolete mindset that the current small, single-track railway in Vietnam is not suitable for transportation growth, so they exert no effort to develop the sector.
“The Vietnamese railway sector is also going against the norm, as we use profits from passenger trains to make up for the losses cargo trains make,” he said.
“In other parts of the world, it is the cargo train sector that offsets the passenger segment.”
Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang also remarked at the meeting that the Vietnam Railways is underperforming.
“How would railways compete with other means of transportation when even the Saigon Railways, the leading subsidiary of the Vietnam Railways, posted a modest profit of only VND5 billion [US$223,214] in 2015?” the minister wondered.
The Vietnam Railways only targets to increase its 2016 profit to VND69 billion ($3.08 million) from VND65 billion ($2.9 million) last year, which Minister Thang said is not high enough to be the impetus for development.
In response, Thanh said the main target of the Vietnam Railways in 2016 is to “renovate cargo transportation methods to earn profit and win back customers.”
“We will stop using profits from passenger transport to make up for the loss-making cargo transportation,” he added.