Changing People's Perception of Mass Transit in Ha Noi

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Published: 25 June 2020

In Viet Nam, where the motorcycle is king of the road, convincing the public to support a metro rail project required a strategic communication plan.


The rapid growth of the Viet Nam economy has put pressure on roads, including those of its capital Ha Noi. To ease traffic congestion, the government is adopting an urban transport strategy that focuses on mass transit and intermodal transport, discourages the use of private vehicles, and improves urban livability and the environment.

The integrated public transport system in Ha Noi’s six districts will include the Ha Noi Metro Rail System Project (Line 3), one of four priority lines planned for the capital's metropolitan area. The mega project is co-financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Investment Bank, the Government of France, and the Agence Française de Développement. The budget for the project is almost $1.4 billion. It is expected to provide convenient, comfortable, safe, affordable, and low-carbon means of transport.

The project’s success, however, hinges on getting the people’s support through awareness and education campaigns on the benefits of a metro rail system.

Project Snapshot

  • 10 December 2015 : Approval Date

  • $1.375 billion :

  • Executing agency :
    • Ha Noi City People’s Committee
  • Implementing agency :
    • Ha Noi Metro Company
  • Implementing agency :
    • Ha Noi Metropolitan Railway Management Board
  • Financing :
  • Financing :
    • European Investment Bank (EIB)
  • Financing :
    • Government of France
  • Financing :
    • Agence Française de Développement (AFD)

Convincing people in Ha Noi of the benefits of public transportation is a major challenge. Motorcycles and cars make up about 90% of vehicles on the road, which is heavily congested during peak hours. Growth in household income is expected to further increase private vehicle ownership and promote the shift from motorcycles to cars. More vehicles on the road will make the traffic problem worse.

Negative sentiment about the metro rail project was high. Concerns included the environmental impact, such as removal of mature trees, as well as noise and traffic disruptions during construction. There was also an overall skepticism, with many not inclined to switch from motorcycles or cars to the metro rail.


Ha Noi is the second-largest city in Viet Nam. The population of the greater urban area is expected to grow to more than eight million by 2025 from about 7.5 million in 2015.

The city’s road network is expanding slowly. Most inner-city areas do not have space to expand road capacity.

The government’s strategy is to actively develop public transport and road infrastructure to alleviate congestion and open new areas for urbanization. An integrated public transport system will help meet the needs of high-density areas, support a high quality of life and work environment, and attract investments.


ADB is also supporting the metro rail project through the development and implementation of a stakeholder communication strategy to promote metro line 3. The communications plan aimed to raise public awareness and get the public’s support by disseminating key project information to stakeholders, mainly communities, employees, students, and other affected individuals. The Ha Noi Metro Company and the Ha Noi Metropolitan Management Board were implementing partners.

To ensure effective communication with stakeholders during project implementation, and to enhance project outcomes, the project adopted a two-pronged communication strategy:

1. Deliver relevant project information to those affected and other stakeholders possibly impacted by the project in a culturally appropriate, gender-sensitive, and timely manner, and foster a regular two-way flow of information between project implementers and these stakeholders; and

2. Support intensive, sustained, broad and repetitive communication, education, marketing, and advocacy about the benefits of the project to foster positive public behavior change and encourage widespread use of the new Line 3 and other metro lines.

Toward these objectives, the following activities were conducted:

Written in Vietnamese, these materials used simple, straightforward language, supported by pictures, to make the project easily understood by a wide range of stakeholder groups. They contained general information about the project and highlighted key aspects of the project, particularly features that will directly benefit stakeholders. They also emphasized that the project will help preserve Ha Noi as a city for people rather than for vehicles.

Traffic disruptions were primary concerns during construction, but there were also concerns about possible impacts to cultural heritage, given the project’s proximity to cultural treasures, like the Temple of Literature and Bich Cau temple. Community-level, mass media, and social media channels were used to proactively relay project information, possible impacts, and assured the public that all necessary measures were taken to protect and preserve the heritage sites.

The booklet and other information materials indicated where stakeholders could get in touch with project implementers and the designated focal point. Community meetings and other information dissemination and outreach events were also held for stakeholder groups to provide accurate and sufficient feedback.

To encourage widespread use of the new metro, sustained communication, education, marketing, and advocacy activities were undertaken. They highlighted the following key messages:

  • People will be able to ride in a modern, safe, clean, comfortable, affordable metro rail system.
  • Using the metro will save commuters significant time and money.
  • Metro fares will be comparatively affordable, saving money on fuel and parking fees.
  • The metro will help keep Ha Noi a green city.

Related activities that were implemented to promote the metro system include:

  • Placement of advertisements in various media channels. For plans related to advertising, marketing, and customer service, ADB partnered with the Tokyo Metro Company, which was then developing a revenue generation strategy and roadmap. It also helped develop a customer service model with training manuals and materials, and a customer complaint mechanism;
  • Conduct of regular public relations activities to ensure regular media coverage of the project’s progress, with positive stories highlighting the benefits of the metro for individuals;
  • Creation and maintenance of online presence through the official website and social media channels; and
  • Dissemination of posters, leaflets, and other collateral products.

Promotion, information dissemination, and in-person outreach were conducted in schools, universities, hospitals, large companies, and government entities along metro line corridors to better present the vision of the metro, its convenience, and its benefits for individuals and the public at large.


Public perception of the project improved significantly because of the communications campaign.

According to a presentation made by communication officer Hoai Thu Nguyen of the Ha Noi Metropolitan Railway Management Board at the Urban Transport for Livable Cities Forum in October 2019 at the ADB, 70% of articles about the project were negative in 2016–2017. In 2019, the results of the media review showed that half of all articles and public opinion on the Ha Noi Metro were neutral to positive. Major online publications also quoted information from the monthly newsletters released by the project communications team.

More than 20,000 regular followers have visited, liked, and commented on news related to the metro rail as posted on its Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram pages.

A survey of 1,000 respondents ages 18 to 60 years old showed that more than 80% highly appreciated the train design and that 90% were willing to ride the metro, she added.

Figure 1. Social Media Followers of the Ha Noi Metro Rail Project

Source: From the presentation of Hoai Thu Nguyen during the Urban Transport for Livable Cities Forum held in October 2019 at the Asian Development Bank.


Strategic communication plays a critical role in encouraging the use of the mass transit network. Proactive dissemination of information on sustainable construction and operation of such projects through multiple channels is needed. This includes utilizing traditional mass media and social media, especially on projects that require behavioral changes on the part of the public.

Community outreach activities can help inform, educate, and communicate project updates to stakeholders as well as public commuting options during the construction phase.

Marketing, customer service, and advertising should be integral to planning any public transportation project. Marketing and advertising are crucial to the metro system’s fiscal success while customer service training will make sure that the metro will provide quality facilities and services.

Jason Rush
Principal Operations Communications Specialist, Southeast Asia Regional Department, Asian Development Bank

Jason is ADB’s Team Leader for Communication, Knowledge and External Partnerships in Southeast Asia. He also leads ADB’s involvement in the BIMP-EAGA subregional cooperation program, and manages the “B-I-G” Capacity Building Program for government officials from Southeast Asia and the People’s Republic of China.

Hoai Thu Nguyen
Communications Specialist, Ha Noi Metropolitan Railway Management Board

Before working at the Ha Noi Metropolitan Railway Management Board, she held media positions at social and multinational organizations. She obtained her Bachelor of Communication degree from the Academy of Journalism and Communication in Viet Nam.

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