Yangon school bus plan stalls

With no progress made two months into the school year, officials are now admitting defeat – for 12 months, at least.

The plan emerged from a November 2014 workshop on public transport in Yangon. Participants identified 22 ideas to solve Yangon’s worsening congestion, one of which was a standardised system of school buses.

Discussions on school buses started in December last year, with nine schools in Yangon Region identified for the pilot program that has yet to get off the ground.

Traffic official U Hla Thaung Myint was quick to blame the schools for the lack of progress.

“The schools have not been active on this matter so we will wait to try again,” he said. “The Basic Education Department 3 asked us to do this [project] but they didn’t explain how it would be achieved so we can’t move forward.”

The majority of state school students catch privately run “ferries” – light trucks equipped with benches and plastic rain flaps – to and from school. Because they can carry only a limited number of passengers, many are needed to send students to school and home again. This clogs up roads outside schools at opening and closing times, when dozens of the vehicles park along the curb – and sometimes in the middle of the road, if there are no parking spots left.

But U Hla Thaung Myint, who heads an education sub-committee at the Yangon Region Supervisory Committee for Traffic Rules Enforcement, said student safety was more important than easing traffic congestion.

“I want to implement this plan for the sake of students, not to solve traffic jams,” said U Hla Thaung Myint.

Children who take the ferries sit on benches rather than proper seats, and there are no specific safety standards for the vehicles, many of which are in poor condition.

However, U Hla Thaung Myint said the two issues were also linked: Because parents are concerned about safety on the ferries, those who are able to send their children to school in private vehicles, which adds to the congestion.

‘’We have talked about how we need to build trust in school buses, which would be possible if they were new and in good condition, unlike the current ones,” U Hla Thaung Myint said.

U Mg Aung, an adviser to the Ministry of Commerce, said in December 2014 that school-related congestion was something that could be resolved.

‘’We need to solve the problem of parents clogging roads near schools to collect their children. One student equals one car, which results in a traffic jam,” he said.

“School ferries are not especially safe because most are converted light trucks. If all schools ferry owners used minibuses and were under the control of one company or association it would be safer for children and easier for parents.”

Thingangyun resident Ma Nandar said she supported the bus plan.

“I spent a lot of time taking my son to school and then picking him up again because I don’t want him taking one of those ferries,” she said.

‘’The trucks are dangerous,” said U Hla Thaung Myint. “Ferry owners say they arrange one person to supervise the children in the back but I believe minibuses are safer than trucks and can carry up to 40 children.

“If we can get ferry owners to accept our plans we will offer them the chance to buy buses on hire purchase.”

He said he is determined to get the project off the ground.

‘’We will try again next year,” said U Hla Thaung Myint. “If the plan can’t start next year, we will try again the following year.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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