Buses will remain a major means of public transport in Vietnam during 2012-20 with metro, elevated railway and rapid transit bus services currently under development.

The point is emphasised in a public transport strategy approved by the Prime Minister, aimed at easing traffic congestion while reducing accidents and improving the environment.

Accordingly, Hanoi and HCM City will have to reorganise their current bus networks to increase efficiency and connectivity, making this means of public transport accessible and attractive to commuters.

Other provinces and cities under central management must consolidate bus networks to meet increasing demand.

Currently, 54 out of 63 cities and provinces throughout the country operate bus services with a total of 627 routes and 8,000 vehicles.

Despite the significant development of such services in both number and quality, problems remain.

The lack of parking space, depots and stops along with narrow streets has hindered transport development, especially in big and crowded cities like Hanoi and HCM City , said Deputy Director of the Transport Department Nguyen Ngoc Dung.

Overcrowding during rush hour, careless driving, skipping bus stops, impolite attitudes to passengers and pickpocketing has all caused a stir among society, he said, adding that many buses are no longer environmentally friendly.

"These issues need urgent addressing," he said.

According to Minister Dinh La Thang, the privatisation of bus services needs to be enhanced to create a competitive transport market to help increase quality while easing the financial burden on the Government.

Subsidies will continue to be offered on routes suffering losses, but these must be made more transparent.

Besides this, the application of environmentally friendly buses needs to be prioritised, as is the case in HCM City that has made 28 compressed-natural-gas vehicles operational.

Advertisements on buses should also be promoted to obtain additional capital.

Thang stressed the compatibility of bus networks with the development of infrastructure, saying that buses only will not help reduce traffic congestion unless land for traffic infrastructure is expanded.-VNA