The automatic fare collection (AFC) system for HCMC’s Metro line No.1 is outdated and out of touch with today’s non-cash payment trends, officials say.
Work on the city’s first metro line running 19.7km between Ben Thanh Market in District 1 and Long Binh Depot in Thu Duc City began in 2012. It was scheduled to become operational in 2018.
In line with the initial plan, the investor, HCMC Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR), had started designing the AFC system in 2010.
The detailed design was completed after five years with the system offering three types of tickets: normal tickets for one trip, tickets for unlimited trips (used either for one day or three days in a row), and a metro card for passengers to make advance payments.
However, passengers can only buy tickets and top up cards at vending machines or train stations. The system does not allow passengers to pay with credit cards or e-wallets or link with other public transport services like the bus rapid transit system.
Given its limitations, the investor has proposed a VND159-billion ($7 million) upgrade to the system.
MAUR has said that the work would be done separately and not affect the progress of the metro line.
The investor had explained that the AFC system was designed and prepared for bidding 12 years ago – when domestic mechanisms and policies for running the metro line were still “inadequate.”
At that time, making payments via bank cards, QR codes and e-wallets was not popular, especially in public transportation, even in other countries that had operational metro lines.
Phan Le Binh, an expert with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the metro line’s investor, said in the past 10 years, technologies have developed rapidly and it was understandable that the consultant did not fully anticipate the current context when coming up with the AFC system design more than a decade ago.
The HCMC metro line No.1 is set to cost over VND43.7 trillion ($1.89 billion).
In its latest schedule, it was supposed to be completed at the end of 2021 and begin commercial operations in 2022, but this was also delayed by the pandemic and other factors.
The project is now 89 percent complete and is expected to be completed at the end of 2023.
Nguyen Huu Nguyen, a member of the Vietnam Urban Development Planning Association, said even the outdated AFC system is not likely to affect demand for riding the metro because passengers will accept its limitations.
He said: “Passengers are still buying tickets the old way when they take public buses.”
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