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Official Gazette

Friday, October 7, 2022

Working hour change may curb traffic congestion

Updated: 10:55’ - 01/12/2011

Hanoi has completed a new plan to change school and office working hours in an effort to tackle the city’s traffic congestion which has recently grown into a major headache for the local administration and city dwellers.

Under the plan, which was expected to get approval of the municipal People’s Council in its meeting early next month, the capital city would apply new school and office hours in 10 inner city districts and the suburban districts of Thanh Tri and Tu Liem from next January.

The plan introduced different time frameworks for three groups. Students of universities, colleges, professional secondary schools and vocational schools would start their morning session at 6.30 am and close the afternoon session at 7 pm, and primary and lower secondary pupils and kindergarten children would begin the day at 7.30 am and leave school at 5.30 pm. Central and local state agencies would work from 8 am to 5 pm and trade and service centers and supermarkets would open from 9 am to after 7 pm.

The plan followed the Ministry of Transport’s earlier proposal to the Government to adjust school and working hours as a way to reduce rush-hour traffic in the city.

Ho Chi Minh City had also asked concerned agencies to complete a similar plan for reporting to the Government before the annual national conference on traffic safety is held later this month.

Traffic congestion has grown severe in the two largest cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, driving mad local planners and residents alike.

According to a government report submitted to the National Assembly this month, last year Hanoi had as many as 124 traffic points frequently encountering congestion while Ho Chi Minh City had 54 traffic jams of more than 30 minutes. In the first half of this year alone, Ho Chi Minh City had 30 traffic jams of over 30 minutes, double the figure of the same period of last year.

The report attributed the problem to limited state management and inappropriate traffic organization. It also blamed on the delayed relocation of universities, hospitals and administrative agency offices out of city centers.

The average annual population growth rates of 2% in Hanoi and 3.5% in Ho Chi Minh City plus sharp increases in personal vehicles were direct reasons behind traffic jams in the two cities, the report said. Hanoi now had 380,000 cars and 3.8 million motorbikes while the figures were 476,000 and 4.9 million in Ho Chi Minh City. The numbers of cars and motorbikes were respectively 2.75 times and 2.96 times the 2003 figures.

Meanwhile, land for traffic remained modest, staying at around 6-7% of the total urban area, much lower than the required 16-26% under the Law on Road Traffic.

Drivers’ lack of sense of traffic rule observance was also a major reason behind traffic chaos leading to serious congestion. Running red lights, driving on the wrong side of a street, in wrong lanes or on sidewalks, weaving and speeding became common on most streets and intersections in rush hours. Many motorbike riders even did not hesitate to stop in the middle of a street in rush hour to buy something from street vendors without caring about those behind them. Lack of traffic discipline was even seen in pedestrians, of whom 80-90% crossed the streets in the middle of flowing traffic without using priority light systems or overpasses built for them.

Although local authorities set high hopes on the change of working time as an effective remedy for traffic congestion, many believed this was just a temporary solution.

Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Nhanh, director of Hanoi Police, was not confident that the city’s time adjustment plan could improve its congestion, citing the fact that the plan made no big change in working hours as compared with currently. He believed this was just a band-aid measure while the plan implementation might largely affect different target groups.

Nguyen Van Khoa, former deputy of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Council, agreed change of working hours should not be adopted arbitrarily but must be studied scientifically and socially, saying such change would affect millions of people.

He also pointed to the fact that Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi faced traffic jams not only in rush hours, citing a rate of 70-80% of vehicles in other hours.

Nguyen Viet Thinh, rector of Hanoi Teachers College, showed doubt that the plan could address the current traffic situation, pointing out that Hanoi streets remained teeming during weekends, meaning that traffic participants were not just public employees and students, but a lot of free laborers.

He stressed that congestion just occurred in a number of traffic points which could not be solved merely with change of office hours. Even if a public employee worked later in the morning, he might still go out early to take his child to school or do other things. And in the afternoon, everybody would still rush home and this was just a matter of change of peak hours, he said.

Although agreeing that change of office hours was an effective method to reduce traffic congestion, Dr. Khuat Viet Hung of the Transport College noted that thorough survey and study on target groups and areas were needed before adopting specific plans. He took an example that a father who went to work after taking his child to school at 8 am now had to work at 9 am. This man would add to the traffic load during the one hour before going to his office with his parking or traveling for other purposes.

To solve the riddle of traffic congestion, apart from the time adjustment plan, the Ministry of Transport was set to reorganize traffic by increasing one-way streets, separating lanes for different vehicles, giving separate lanes for buses, building overpasses for light trucks and motorbikes in a number of main traffic points and banning taxis and personal cars in peak hours. The Ministry was also expected to plan stronger development of buses.-


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