By AYE NYEIN WIN The Myanmar Times January 16. 2018
The new diesel electric trains bought from China for the Yangon-Mandalay express debuted in 2016. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing/The Myanmar Times
YANGON, Myanmar – Japan has thrown its weight behind Myanmar’s railway development by funding the Yangon-Mandalay railway, according to the country’s foreign minister Taro Kono who held a joint press conference in the capital with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on January 12.
The railroad upgrade programme is expected to cut travel time between Yangon and Taungoo to 3.5 hours and the overall Yangon-Mandalay one-way journey to eight hours. The Yangon- Taungoo part is scheduled to complete in 2020.
Taungoo is a town in Bago Region between the capital and Yangon.
“By 2023, the travel time between Yangon and Mandalay will be eight hours, and this will help the people’s travels as well as easing and speeding up trade,” Taro Kono commented.
The railway connecting Yangon and Mandalay stretches over 380 miles and is a popular route for travellers. Commuters need at least 12 hours to go from one city to another, and the time can go up to 15 hours due to the deterioration in the physical infrastructure.
The project will be funded by an Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan from Tokyo. ODA is broadly divided into bilateral aid, in which assistance is given directly to developing countries, and multilateral aid, which is provided through international organisations.
There are three phases for the scheme. The first priority is to build the Yangon-Taungoo line, covering 166 miles; then Taungoo-Yamaethin will be constructed, spanning 118.5 miles, followed by 100 miles between Yamethin-Mandalay.
“The upgrade programme for the Yangon-Mandalay railway is in progress and the progress is on-going. We signed the agreement for a loan in 2014. But the implementation has been slow. The programme includes a lot of work, such as adding stone to the railroad and upgrading it,” general manager U Htun Aung Thin from Myanma Railways said.
For the Yangon-Mandalay railway, over 3,000 passengers take the train on a daily basis. Hence, Myanma Railways is seeking to revamp the route and shorten the time to eight hours after the upgrade.
The revamp will involve a lot of other work, such as the signalling, the traffic lights guiding the roads which intersect the railway as well as the gates guiding the traffic flow.
“Since two years ago, Japan has set a policy of public-private partnership [PPP] assistance totalling 800 billion yen along a five-year period in order to support peace and reconciliation among the people in Myanmar, which will enable democracy to take root and economy to develop.
“Special assistance will be provided for Yangon’s urban development, transport improvement, power supply, Yangon-Mandalay upgrade programmes which will raise the living standard of the Myanmar people,” Mr Kono explained.
“Now Myanma Railways is already implementing the work for the upgrade and the Japanese are also in preparation for the ongoing project,” U Htun Aung Thin added.
In 2016, Myanma Railways yesterday launched its new Yangon-Mandalay service with diesel electric locomotives and carriages bought from China. The 2000-horsepower locomotives, currently the most powerful in Myanmar, were made by China’s CSR Sifang. The total cost of the contract was put at 11.3 million euros (US$12.3 million).
But that does not shorten the time of travel, which could only be achieved by upgrading the railways with the help from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The Japanese government, through JICA, will upgrade the infrastructure. Myanma Railways would be responsible for upgrading the track and tendering the existing 38 stations for redevelopment.
From: THE MYANMAR TIMES (MYANMAR) January 16, 2018