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Vietnam Adds More 5-Star Trains to Its North-South Line

With one five-star train already in service, Saigon Railway Transport JSC recently added a new set of high-end trains to the country's north-south line.

After nine months of renovations, the brand-new SE7/8 trains went into operation on January 26, featuring a total 59 cars equipped with five-star amenities, according to VnExpress

Following positive feedback from its initial high-end trains, which debuted in February 2015, Saigon Railway Transport CEO Dao Anh Tuan chose to invest VND65 billion (US$2.92 million) into a second set of trains.

The train includes four-bed soft sleeper cabins, six-bed hard sleeper cabins, air-conditioned soft seat cars, hard seat cars and a dining car. Extra amenities like an LED lighting system in the corridors and noise reduction walls also help to make travel more comfortable.

Tuan also vowed not to increase fares as a result of the upgrades, keeping the train's Saigon-Hanoi route priced between VND542,000 and VND1,547,000, depending upon type of accommodation. The CEO promised to reduce fares by a further 15% after Tet in an effort to attract more train travelers.

However, while these new accoutrements were welcomed by some, other travelers have also expressed disappointment in the new service.  According to another VnExpress article, some commenters felt neither the upgrades nor the fares were enough to steer them away from air travel.

"From Saigon to Nha Trang, a normal, weekday ticket is almost VND500,000. If it's not cheaper than an airplane, then where's the competition when a plane only takes two hours?" Tran The Phong told VnExpress.

Reader Hai Thuy, a frequent traveler between Saigon and Vinh, told the news outlet: "The railway industry has improved, especially the SE3/4, which runs on time, is clean and has slightly more attentive service, but with old equipment and the same speed, it is difficult to attract people."

Though there may still be work to do when it comes to improving train travel in Vietnam, the new trains are a step in the right direction. 

[Photo via VnExpress]

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