09/24/2022, 15.09
VIETNAM
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Merchants on Hanoi’s Train Street want it to reopen

Police recently erected barriers to stop access. Tourists began visiting the road in 2017 after it became a social media focus. As post-pandemic tourism takes off, residents who turned their homes into illegal shops and bars want it to reopen. Local authorities say there are too many accidents.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Merchants and vendors on Hanoi’s Train Street have asked the authorities not to block access to tourists.

On Tuesday, shop and bar owners sent a letter to the Ministry of Transport hoping that it would let them reopen now that tourists are allowed to visit.

Train Street is a very narrow road located in Old Hanoi. Several times a day, a train passes through very close to buildings, which date back to the French colonial era.

In 2017, thanks to social media, especially Instagram, Train Street became a tourist hotspot with residents converting their homes on either side of the track into small shops and illegal bars for visitors waiting to see the train go by.

However, accidents have also increased considerably. Some train drivers say they have had to repeatedly put on emergency brakes to avoid people taking selfies on the tracks.

In 2019 the street was shut down for safety reasons and when COVID-19 struck in 2020, the matter was no longer relevant since tourists were no longer coming.

Now, with borders reopening in mid-March and travellers coming back, bars and souvenir shops have finally reopened as well.

Some residents said they were happy that they no longer had to go and sell fruit and vegetables but could work "from home".

Yet, earlier last week the state-owned railway company asked the authorities to shut down Train Street again.

On 15 September, police set up barriers to keep people off the tracks and ordered bars to close because at least 30 businesses were operating without a license and violating safety regulations.

Following this, rumours spread that a South Korean tourist was hit by a train after climbing over the barriers. Michael Tatarski, a Vietnam-based writer, expressed doubts about the story.

“I’m not entirely convinced that this happened for several reasons,” he says. “The timing, coming just a few days after the railway company’s request to close the street, is also odd.”

At present, it is not clear how long the ban will remain in place. Local businesses hope that the government will find a solution so that safety and trade can go together.

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