Saturday, March 26, 2016

Home again....

Back from Vietnam earlier this week.

I tried to post while I was there but access to bloggs is a bit hit or miss when you're in Vietnam. The Government sometimes denies access (they say they don't) because of concerns about bloggs being too political.

First in my last blogg I suggested that a rail line had once existed as far as Can Tho. This of course is not correct, it only went as far as My Tho so "nothing to see here" when we got to Can Tho.

The city of course relies entirely on river traffic and road transport. There are a large number of coaches each day between Can Tho and Saigon and would you believe not all are 'sleeper' coaches, so the three and bit hours sitting up wasn't too onerous.

A rail line would be very useful I would think for both freight and passengers.

As always we travelled to Thap Cham by train. I was looking forward to sampling the refurbished coaches of SE7/8.

The new seats were quite comfortable but no tray table, so you had to balance your food tray on your knees. The actual ride quality doesn't seem to have changed, still a bit bumpy (probably as much to do with the narrow metre gauge as to anything else), and the nearest toilet was still of the 'squat' variety (I had imagined they would have been replaced by western style toilets as part of the upgrade). Some European tourist passengers (particularly the women) weren't impressed.

The old cloth curtains have been replaced with shutters, but the windows were just as dirty as always.

The new uniforms looked smart but the food available was exactly the same as before and some staff still hadn't quite grasped the concept of "good customer service" but there has been an improvement.

Another area that DSVN needs to address is the custom of local passengers using the passenger services as some sort of freight/parcels system. The number of large cardboard boxes, bags of fruit and vegetables etc manhandled into the carriages is far too many. These items should be stored in a baggage car.  The bus companies seem to have worked this out, but not the DSVN apparently.

The major event which occurred just before we returned was the destruction of the
Ghenh Bridge, a major river crossing just outside of Saigon on Sunday March 20. If you don't know, the rail/motorbike bridge was hit by a barge and several spans are now at the bottom of the river. Luckily no train was crossing at the time and no-one was hurt, but it has now caused a major problem. Trains are currently being terminated at Bien Hoa and passengers are being ferried to Saigon by bus. This not so bad because Bien Hoa is near Saigon, but with any sort of temporary crossing not being available for at least three months there is now the problem of the locomotives, passenger stock and freight vehicles being stuck on the southern side of the river both at Saigon itself and at the major workshops at Di An.

The bridge was built by the French sometime between 1902 and 1909 and had originally carried cars as well but these were diverted to another bridge in the past few years.

DSVN now has to decide whether to build a completely new bridge or try to repair/restore the current one.

The captain and crew of the barge have been arrested.

Until next time....

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