Though the government hopes the metro can tackle both traffic and environmental issues at once, the project has faced numerous delays and setbacks. What’s more, convincing Hanoians to give up their motorbikes could turn out to be the biggest challenge yet.
In 2008, more than 80% of journeys in the city were carried out by motorbikes and scooters – and a fast-growing share of the population is opting for cars. Currently there are roughly 4.9 million motorbikes and scooters on Hanoi’s roads. The use of bicycles, once the dominant transport mode in the city, decreased dramatically as motorbikes and cars became more popular: in 1995, 47% of journeys were made by bicycle; in 2008, the figure had dropped to only 3%.
Hanoi’s Transport Plan aims to increase the share of public transport from the current low figure of 9% of trips, to above 60% by 2030, by which time Hanoi is slated to have six new metro lines and three Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines. But the ambitions get even steeper. Last month, Hanoi’s Party Committee outlined plans to ban motorbikes from the downtown area by 2025, in line with improved public transport. A total downtown ban of the vehicles would require a huge lifestyle shift for most residents – and put an enormous amount of pressure on the new metro system. None of the locals I speak to regard the 2025 plan as feasible.