The Transport Ministry is calling for changes to the working day, as well as school hours to help combat chronic traffic congestion in the capital.

Officials from the ministry and municipal agencies met in Hanoi on Oct. 25 to discuss the proposal.

Nguyen Cong Bang, deputy director of the Transport Ministry's Transport Department, which is responsible for drafting the proposal, said the adjustment had to be based on a scientific approach so that when adopted, it would not adversely affect the daily lives of workers and students.

Bang said its has been suggested that the working day should start one hour later than the current hour. Those affected would be municipal and State agency officials, kindergarten pupils and students at elementary, secondary and high schools as well as those attending universities in Cau Giay, Dong Da, Thanh Xuan and Hai Ba Trung districts.

University lectures typically start at 7am and last from four to five hours. It has been suggested that lectures and tutorials be put back an hour to ease traffic flow.

However, Vu Quang Tho, deputy director of the Trade Union University, thought the proposal misguided.

"Starting lessons one hour earlier in the morning may have a negative effect on people's health, while starting at 12.30pm in the afternoon would prove counter-productive and be biologically harmful because human beings would feel sluggish," he said.

Nguyen Viet Thinh, rector of the Hanoi University of Education, doubted that changing study hours would improve the traffic flow. He said most of the traffic on the roads does not involve only students and officials.

Nguyen Hiep Thong, from the Department of Education, said traffic jams also occur during the summer holidays.

He said travel patterns should be studied.

Nguyen Quoc Hung, director of the Transport Department, said the proposal would first be tried out on universities' students and business centres. /.