Pro­posal to up­grade rail­way kicks up fric­tion, gets no trac­tion

The Myanmar Times - - News - PYAE THET PHYO pyae­thet­phyo@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Khine Thazin Han

A MOVE to up­grade the na­tion’s rail­ways has been shunted onto the side­lines as the trans­port min­is­ter told par­lia­ment his de­part­ment is just too busy. The pro­posal by Bago Re­gion MP U Than Nyunt (NLD; Phyu) to bring the rail net­work up to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards to at­tract more in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment would have to be filed away, Trans­port and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter U Thant Sin Maung said on Oc­to­ber 4.

He was speak­ing as the Pyithu Hlut­taw’s de­bate on the is­sue closed af­ter a dis­cus­sion in­volv­ing 13 MPs.

Mil­i­tary MP Ma­jor Ye Naing Lwin added that up­grad­ing the rail­way sys­tem to “good qual­ity” would mean en­sur­ing its time­li­ness and ac­ces­si­bil­ity to the pub­lic through keep­ing costs low.

“We’re do­ing our best to im­prove the trans­porta­tion sec­tor, but I can­not do ev­ery­thing in this govern­ment’s five-year term,” said U Thant Sin Maung, rec­om­mend­ing that the mo­tion be recorded.

He listed the work be­ing done by his min­istry: in­tro­duc­ing the Bus Rapid Tran­sit sys­tem to ease Yan­gon city traf­fic con­ges­tion; man­ag­ing the re­quire­ments for ve­hi­cles and roads, up­grad­ing the Yan­gon-Man­dalay High­way, also known as the High­way of Death for its high ac­ci­dent rates; bring­ing in safety mea­sures on vi­tal trade ar­ter­ies like the Myawady-Muse and the Yan­gon-Man­dalay-My­itky­ina roads; up­grad­ing the Yan­gon-Man­dalay rail­way; build­ing har­bours along the Aye­yarwady River be­tween Yan­gon and Man­dalay; and tight­en­ing con­trol of wa­ter­ways.

The govern­ment would also be spend­ing US$2 bil­lion on a new in­ter­na­tional air­port by 2020, he said.

The min­is­ter told MPs Myanma Rail­ways had re­ceived K1.3 bil­lion in in­ter­na­tional loans un­der the for­mer govern­ment, and now owed a to­tal of K4 bil­lion.

In an ef­fort to re­duce the rail jour­ney time be­tween Yan­gon and Man­dalay to eight hours, the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA) had lent US$2.2 bil­lion, U Thant Sin Maung said.

The Bel­gian govern­ment was lend­ing 100 mil­lion eu­ros through the fi­nance min­istry to im­prove wa­ter flow along the Aye­yarwady River.

The spend­ing break­down for in­vest­ment fund­ing was 67 per­cent for con­struc­tion, 22pc for rail­ways, 2.7pc for wa­ter­ways and 7.5pc for air trans­port.

Bago Re­gion MP Daw Khin Soe Soe Kyi (NLD; Pyay) told The Myan­mar Times, “The min­is­ter made it clear that rail­way im­prove­ment can­not be done overnight. It re­quires a great deal of in­vest­ment. Some loans have been re­ceived from JICA and ADB [Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank], and other loans have been pro­posed. A lot of money was wasted un­der the last govern­ment.”

Par­lia­ment agreed to record the mo­tion.

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

Com­muters pack the Taung­by­one train in Man­dalay Re­gion.

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