Yan­gon au­thor­i­ties plan bus sys­tem over­haul

Bus line own­ers are ea­gerly await­ing the Yan­gon Re­gion govern­ment’s for­ma­tion of a new pub­lic-pri­vate firm as part of a re­form of the city’s chaotic pub­lic trans­port sys­tem.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - Ayenyein­win@mm­times.com AYE NYEIN WIN

THE Yan­gon Re­gion govern­ment is form­ing a new pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship (PPP) com­pany, as part of a city-wide re­form of the chaotic pub­lic trans­port sys­tem. Bus line own­ers are ea­gerly await­ing the over­haul, but want the au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide in­fra­struc­ture and fi­nan­cial aid to help them man­age the shift.

The govern­ment set up a pub­licpri­vate sec­tor joint ven­ture last year – Yan­gon PPP Com­pany – to over­see a new Bus Rapid Tran­sit sys­tem for the coun­try’s largest city. The new sys­tem – BRT Lite – be­gan op­er­at­ing ear­lier this year us­ing new ve­hi­cles, which drive in a ded­i­cated lane and have pri­or­ity over or­di­nary buses.

The scheme was based on a 2013 plan by the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency for a Bus Rapid Tran­sit sys­tem.

But BRT Lite op­er­ates on only two routes, and thus far has brought limited or­der to the mad­ness of Yan­gon’s bus sys­tem, in which pri­vately owned bus lines com­pete on the same routes for the same pas­sen­gers. Bus driv­ers are no­to­ri­ous for their reck­less driv­ing, and con­duc­tors for their ra­pac­ity and rude­ness. Bus staff are not paid a reg­u­lar wage, but live off what they can ex­tract from hap­less pas­sen­gers.

U Maung Aung, chair of Yan­gon PPP Com­pany, told The Myan­mar Times that the govern­ment is form­ing a new PPP firm as part of a com­plete up­grade of Yan­gon’s bus trans­port sys­tem. There have al­ready been dis­cus­sions with bus line own­ers about the de­tails, he added, and the new firm could be formed within the next week.

The new city-wide sys­tem would be sim­i­lar to BRT Lite in us­ing news buses and elec­tronic tick­et­ing, he said. Ex­ist­ing own­ers of Yan­gon bus lines are be­ing con­sulted on the new sys­tem, but if they are not able to re­place their older ve­hi­cles they will not be al­lowed to op­er­ate in down­town ar­eas or on main roads, he said.

Ko Ta Yoke Lay, who owns the No 45 bus line, is ea­ger to see a new PPP man­aged sys­tem.

“We bus line own­ers can’t give good ser­vice and meet cus­tomers’ re­quire­ments,” he said. “The change [to the pro­posed sys­tem] would ben­e­fit own­ers, bus work­ers and com­muters. This sys­tem should have been brought in years ago, and I think the change can be made quite quickly.”

BRT Lite cus­tomers have given that new sys­tem strong re­views.

Ko Ta Yoke Lay said shift­ing to a city-wide PPP-man­aged sys­tem would be easy, but the govern­ment should also build new in­fra­struc­ture like bus stops and raise tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments, Ko Ta Yoke Lay added.

“The govern­ment should also help us ex­change old buses for new ones. Korean-made Hyundai buses cost over US$10,000 each,” he said.

Yan­gon PPP Com­pany is­sued a ten­der last year for firms to im­port buses for the BRT Lite sys­tem. Of the five firms that were se­lected, only one was not a di­rect in­vestor in Yan­gon PPP Com­pany. Chi­nese, Korean and Swedish bus mod­els were cho­sen.

Ko Ta Yoke Lay sug­gested the govern­ment help bus line op­er­a­tors buy new buses on a long-term, low­in­ter­est hire-pur­chase scheme in co­op­er­a­tion with lo­cal banks.

U Maung Aung said the plan was to sell old buses to other re­gions or states and sub­sti­tute them with new ones. These would be bought on a hire-pur­chase sys­tem with help from banks, and dis­cus­sions with po­ten­tial lenders are tak­ing place this week, he added.

Other bus line op­er­a­tors said the govern­ment could help own­ers with the shift by re­duc­ing the tax on im­ported ve­hi­cles.

“Bus own­ers are pay­ing about twice the cost of the bus when they im­port it. If the govern­ment were to re­duce port tax, Road Trans­port Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­part­ment reg­is­tra­tion tax and im­port tax, prices would fall,” said the owner of the No 48 bus line.

“There are around 7000 pub­lic trans­port buses on the street, and swap­ping them for new ones will re­quire govern­ment help and a shift in reg­u­la­tions,” he said.

U Maung Aung said the govern­ment’s plan is to re­duce the num­ber of lines from around 300 down to 50, but the num­ber of buses will not go down.

“By es­tab­lish­ing one line for each route, we will re­duce con­ges­tion, but with­out re­duc­ing bus num­bers,” said U Maung Aung. “Chang­ing to the PPP sys­tem will take around four months. It would be bet­ter if the govern­ment starts as quickly as pos­si­ble and pro­vides a lot of help.”

Yan­gon PPP Com­pany was set up with K10 bil­lion from the govern­ment and K2.5 mil­lion from five pri­vate com­pa­nies. U Maung Aung said the govern­ment will in­vite new firms to join the new PPP ven­ture. The govern­ment will sup­port the new firm if it faces losses, but it was not yet clear whether the govern­ment would in­vest up­front cap­i­tal, he added.

Yan­gon PPP Com­pany be­gan selling shares to the pub­lic in Novem­ber last year, and the new firm would also is­sue eq­uity, U Maung Aung added.

‘This sys­tem should have been brought in years ago, and I think the change can be made quite quickly.’

Ko Ta Yoke Lay Bus line owner

Photo: Aung Khant

Yan­gon com­muters try out the new BRT line on Yan­gon in Fe­bru­ary.

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