Owners distraught over impending closure of Hanoi Train Street cafés

Ha Hong Tu, who has been living on the street for 42 years and owns a coffee shop there, said most businesses on the street are only over a year old. “My neighbors and I have invested in refurbishment. Many of us have not recouped our investment.”

Dinh Thu Loan, who has been running a cafe for half a year, said by selling beverages for VND20,000-50,000 ($0.9-2.1), she earns around VND1 million ($43) a day, which she would lose if the business is closed.

“Since last month the number of customers has tripled, and some shops have had to hire two or three more workers.”

There are almost 50 businesses on the 200-meter Hanoi Train Street along railroad tracks running on Dien Bien Phu and Phung Hung streets in the heart of the city’s old quarter with houses situated barely a few feet away on either side.

Both locals and foreign tourists have been coming to the street for years, but city authorities recently ordered district officials to remove selfie hotspots and makeshift coffee shops that allow customers to sit and drink perilously close to the tracks.

Transportation expert Nguyen Xuan Thuy said it is understandable that people want to make money, but businesses should not be run in such a dangerous area.

They should be closed down and moved to other sections where there is greater space between the tracks and buildings, he said.

Nguyen Quoc Ky, CEO of leading tourism firm Vietravel, said Vietnam’s travel industry would be severely affected if there is an accident on the track involving a foreign tourist.

“This street is not the only attraction in the city. We cannot allow small gains on this street to negatively impact the travel industry as a whole.”

Ha Van Sieu, deputy head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said at a press briefing Tuesday that Hanoi Train Street is not an official tourist attraction or a part of the administration’s plan for tourism development.

Last weekend the number of people flocking to cafés along the street was much higher than usual after news of their closure broke.

This forced trains to stop because even if they traveled at slow speeds many people were unable to move off the track in time.

The track was laid by the French more than 100 years ago to transport goods and people across Vietnam, which was then part of Indochina along with Laos and Cambodia.

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