The trains were launched this time in a bid to meet the high travel demand between the two major cities during the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet).

The trains are equipped with modern and comfortable facilities and the carriages are insulated to reduce noise, said Dao Anh Tuan, General Director of the Saigon Railway Transport JSC.

Old blankets, sheets and pillows on board were replaced and restrooms were renovated to ensure hygiene for passengers.

Car floors were built with anti-noise aluminum and the walls inside the trains were replaced with new materials to minimize noise.

Despite improved service quality, Saigon Railway Transport JSC said it will not raise fares during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday (Tet) but knocked 15% off ticket prices for the new SE7 and SE8 trains to attract passengers.

The trains are scheduled to stop at 26 stations along the Hanoi-HCM City route during the 35-hour trip, including Hanoi, Phu Ly, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Cho Sy, Vinh, Yen Trung, Huong Street, Dong Le, Ming Le, Dong Hoi , Dong Ha, Hue, Da Nang, Tam Ky, Quang Ngai, Dieu Tri, Tuy Hoa, Ninh Hoa, Nha Trang, Thap Cham, Binh Thuan, Khanh Long, Bien Hoa, and Saigon.

Fares cost VND542,000 VND to VND1,547,000 ($24.5 - $59).

The company gave a 15 percent discount on fares during the travel season of Lunar New Year.

Passengers can buy tickets at railway stations or via e-ticket systems at .

The same day, the Hanoi Railway Company also put into use two new trains on the route from Hanoi to HCM City.

The number of passengers travelling by train has declined in recent years due to fiercer competition from budget airlines Vietjet and Jetstar Pacific.

Speaking at a conference earlier this year, general director of Vietnam Railway Corporation (VRC) Vu Ta Tung admitted that the railway sector will lose more passengers if there is no change.

Tung said the railway sector will launch many cheap products to compete with other means of transport and invite private investors to join to operate trains and improve service quality.

Last year, the sector started to sell tickets online to help passengers save time from having to queue in long lines for buying tickets, particularly for the trains departing from HCMC to central and northern stations ahead of Tet.

However, Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang said the railway industry should improve corporate governance and service quality and lower fares as ticket prices were still high compared with airfares of budget airlines.

VietNamNet Bridge - 29 Janvier 2016