Traffic overload and rampant violations have made life dangerous for drivers and others on the HCMC-Trung Luong Expressway, the only expressway link between the city and the Mekong Delta.
Thanh Hien, 29, a driver with 10 years’ experience in carrying passengers between Ho Chi Minh City and the delta, which comprises 13 localities, said he was “way too tired of” the expressway.
He found it no different from a “village road.”
“One day, when I was driving from Kien Giang Province to HCMC on the expressway at 80 kph, a seven-seat car moving in the same direction suddenly passed me and moved into my lane, very dangerously. At one moment, the two cars were so close to each other that all my passengers were scared to death,” he said.
Trucks, cars, and passengers bus move close to one another on a section of HCMC – Trung Luong Expressway in Tien Giang Province in November, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam
He recalled that on Nov. 13, because of a pile up involving two sleeping buses, a truck and a pick-up truck, all moving in the same direction on the same lane, it took him more than two hours to cover four km. Fortunately that accident caused no death.
Behind him, four ambulances were stuck in a long tail.
“Around five minutes after I had got out of the gridlock that day, I heard on the news that another collision took place between two cars on the expressway.”
In the early hours of Nov. 14, a truck driver and his assistant were killed after they rammed into the back of another truck parked in the middle on the road after its engine was broken.
A truck’s cabin is destroyed in an accident that kills the driver and his assistant on HCMC – Trung Luong Expressway on November 14, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thuy Phuong
The HCMC – Trung Luong Expressway, 62 km long, opened to traffic 12 years ago as the first road of its kind in southern Vietnam.
It has four lanes plus a fast lane for vehicles to move at a maximum speed of 100 kph.
After toll collection was stopped three years ago, the number of vehicles using the expressway jumped by more than 30% to an average of 40,000-50,000 per 24 hours.
This overload is believed to be one of the reasons for frequent accidents on the route.
According to Vietnam’s Road Administration Department No.4, which manages the expressway, so far this year, 71 accidents on the route have killed three people and injured 19 others. There have been 71 separate traffic gridlocks as well.
Nguyen Dinh Dung, deputy head of the department, said that in addition to increased traffic volume, disregard of traffic rules has contributed to the large number of collisions on the expressway.
He said it was very common for cars to recklessly pass trucks moving slowly without keeping a safe distance, vehicles get into in the emergency lanes when not needed and motorbikes trespass on the expressway.
Sometimes, locals climb across over the expressway as a shortcut to reach their rice fields or stand by the side of the expressway to catch a passenger bus, he added.
Dung said the department has strengthened management on the route to handle violations in a timely manner, but such solutions are only “temporary.”
The HCMC Department of Transport said in July that the HCMC–Trung Luong Expressway was overloaded and needed to be widened to eight lanes. It proposed starting the expansion project in 2025.
Once the expressway is expanded in addition to two emergency lanes, vehicles would be able to travel at a top speed of 120 kph, the department said.
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