Govt to of­fer sup­port for Yan­gon bus lines

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

Of­fi­cials aim to over­haul the city’s chaotic bus routes by al­low­ing com­pa­nies to form public-pri­vate part­ner­ships, which will also be al­lowed to open petrol sta­tions.

YAN­GON Re­gion gov­ern­ment aims to over­haul the city’s chaotic bus lines by al­low­ing com­pa­nies to form pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ships. Th­ese new joint ven­tures will also be al­lowed to open petrol sta­tions to help them stay prof­itable, Chief Min­is­ter U Phyo Min Thein (NLD) said.

The gov­ern­ment set up the city’s first public-pri­vate joint ven­ture last year to op­er­ate a ser­vice called BRT Lite. Th­ese air-con­di­tioned buses only run along two routes, how­ever, and re­forms have barely scratched the sur­face of Yan­gon’s chaotic bus sys­tem, where more than 350 pri­vately owned lines com­pete for pas­sen­gers.

Driv­ers are paid ac­cord­ing to how many peo­ple they pick up, which en­cour­ages reck­less driv­ing as each bus races to over­take the com­pe­ti­tion, of­ten in di­lap­i­dated and dirty vehicles. U Phyo Min Thein said the city’s public trans­port has de­te­ri­o­rated and needs to be up­graded with new buses and bet­ter-or­gan­ised routes.

To achieve this, the gov­ern­ment will en­cour­age pri­vate com­pa­nies to come to­gether and form PPPs, he said. Ad­dress­ing con­cerns by many bus line own­ers that such ven­tures would re­sult in losses, he said that the gov­ern­ment would help by award­ing petrol dis­tri­bu­tion li­cences to PPPs.

“If the cur­rent bus lines be­come PPPs they will surely lose some profit,” he said. “At that time, we need to al­lo­cate prof­its across bus lines sys­tem­at­i­cally. We also plan to sup­port the bus com­pa­nies by al­low­ing them to open petrol sta­tions and to dis­trib­ute fuel as a sub­sidiary busi­ness, which can cover their losses.”

The cur­rent gov­ern­ment has not yet awarded any new per­mits for pri­vate com­pa­nies to open petrol sta­tions, he said. In the past, fuel dis­tri­bu­tion li­cences were re­served for com­pa­nies with the best con­nec­tions.

The Yan­gon Re­gion gov­ern­ment is also pre­par­ing to im­prove the city’s streets, and hopes to make money for this through sell­ing ad­verts at bus stops.

“If Yan­gon City Devel­op­ment Com­mit­tee gives up its rights to the ad­ver­tis­ing sec­tor we can up­grade the bus stops with­out us­ing the state bud­get. We can run this op­er­a­tion through ad­ver­tise­ments. To sus­tain­ably de­velop the PPP sys­tem the gov­ern­ment must act as provider and in­vestor where nec­es­sary so the com­pa­nies can stand firmly,” he said.

Five com­pa­nies have ap­plied to in­vest through the PPP model, but still need per­mis­sion from the Di­rec­torate of In­vest­ment and Com­pany Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said U Maung Aung, sec­re­tary of the gov­ern­ment’s Public Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity Group.

“We will give li­cences to pub­licpri­vate joint ven­tures as much as we can, but some com­pa­nies need to wait for per­mis­sion from DICA. We hope that seven or eight PPP com­pa­nies will want to start within this year, and we will also in­clude bus lines op­er­ated by Ma Hta Tha,” he said, us­ing the Myan­mar acronym for the Yan­gon Re­gion Su­per­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for Mo­tor Vehicles.

Even­tu­ally the gov­ern­ment plans to phase out pri­vately run bus routes from the city cen­tre, re­plac­ing them with PPP lines which will be co­or­di­nated by their joint “public” part­ner, the Public Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity Group.

Most pri­vate oper­a­tors say they are keen to get in­volved in the scheme, which would of­fer them fi­nan­cial cer­tainty. Once they have signed up, they will be en­cour­aged to sell their old vehicles for use in other states and re­gions, and will be connected with lo­cal com­mer­cial banks to buy new buses un­der a hire-pur­chase scheme.

“If own­ers of ex­ist­ing bus lines want to be in­volved in PPPs they must change their buses,” said U Maung Aung. “In the past the gov­ern­ment did not al­low buses with Kha li­cence plates to be sold to other re­gions or states, but now this is al­lowed.”

Com­pa­nies can put the money raised from sell­ing their old buses to­ward buy­ing new buses, and banks can pro­vide the rest, he said.

“We have al­ready dis­cussed this with the banks. If bus own­ers can put up a K3 mil­lion or K4 mil­lion down pay­ment, the banks can loan them the rest through in­stal­ments.”

All buses run un­der the PPP sys­tem must use a stan­dard­ised tick­et­ing sys­tem so the gov­ern­ment can eas­ily calculate how much it needs to in­vest in case one line is los­ing money, he added.

“Ten per­cent of Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion is liv­ing in Yan­gon, which is our coun­try’s main busi­ness town and an im­por­tant place,” he said.

“Most for­eign in­vest­ment is con­cen­trated in Yan­gon. If trans­porta­tion charges are high, it will block the flow of cap­i­tal. Most peo­ple are wast­ing time in traf­fic on Yan­gon’s roads, to the detri­ment of the en­tire coun­try. Trans­porta­tion in Yan­gon is a cru­cial prob­lem to solve.”

Pri­vate bus own­ers who are un­will­ing or un­able to join the PPP scheme will even­tu­ally find their routes lim­ited to the city’s out­skirts and away from main roads.

Photo: Aung Khant

A Yan­gon bus con­duc­tor counts out change.

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