Demands for end of BM buses grow after recent hit-and-run
FOLLOWING the hit-and-run death of a 68-year-old woman in South Dagon township on October 28, some are calling for the end of the locally built BM buses. Authorities have yet to locate the driver or conductor.
As people from other regions and states have relocated to the more economically prosperous Yangon Region, the population’s upward climb has put more pressure on the commercial capital’s transportation infrastructure, particularly its antiquated buses.
Many passengers claim they are being forced to pay increased fees while enduring abuse from the buses’ conductors. Some claim that they have been beaten by conductors or drivers after complaining.
This makes passengers scared to complain, said Ma Aye Myat Myat Aung from Sanchaung township.
“I saw the money-collecting conductor threaten a passenger with an iron rod,” she said. “The passenger had complained that the driver took too long at the bus stop.”
The most consistent complaints are against the smaller, narrower, lowceilinged BM buses, which have been running the streets of Yangon, from downtown bus stops to North Dagon and North Okkalapa townships, for more than 40 years.
Currently, there are 146 BM buses running to South Dagon township and nearly 400 BM buses regionwide, according to the Yangon Region government.
Yangon Region lawmaker U Nyi Nyi (NLD; South Dagon 1) said the BM buses should be retired. They have weak structures that can endanger the lives of their passengers if the government allows them to continue running, he said.
“The government should protect the passengers in accordance with the laws,” he said.
When he brought up the issue at a parliamentary session on October 28, regional Electricity, Industry and Transportation Minister Daw Nila Kyaw responded with a promise to take action against BM bus drivers and conductors who endanger their passengers.
“The drivers and money conductors run away after the accidents,” she said. “So, we plan to take action against the bus owners when the accidents occur.”
She also pledged to take stern action in the recent case of the 68-yearold woman killed by the bus.
Last year, the regional government set up a public-private sector joint venture, supporting a new system, BRT Lite, as an alternative to the BM buses.
BRT Lite began operating earlier this year using new vehicles that drive in a dedicated lane and have priority over ordinary buses.
The scheme was based on a 2013 rapid transit system plan suggested by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Passengers on the BRT Lite are not subject to reckless driving or rapacity and rudeness of moneycollecting conductors. But BRT Lite operates on only three 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.
“We are trying to be successful through a public-private transportation system,” said Daw Nilar Kyaw, who is also the chair of the Yangon Region Transport Authority. “I would like to request the people to tolerate the current transportation system.”
While the public waits for a more effective system, MP U Yan Aung (NLD; Mingalar Taung Nyunt 2) said the government should protect the people by taking action against drivers and conductors who are breaking the law.
“We cannot predict how long it will be before we have a new transportation system,” he said. “We are worried that several lives will be lost before the new system is in place. We want to know how the government plans to resolve that.”
A passenger boards a BM bus in downtown Yangon.