Yangon roads to grind to halt without huge investment: JICA

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is working with the government on an urban management master plan for Yangon, said congestion would continue to worsen over the next 20 years without significant investment.

The researchers predicted that by the year 2035, vehicle use in Yangon would rise 22-fold. As a result, even if the Yangon transportation plan – formally known as the Yangon Urban Transport Master Plan of the Project for Comprehensive Urban Transport Plan of the Greater Yangon (YUTRA) – is carried out, average traffic speeds would still drop from 30kph (18mph) to 20-25kph (12-15 mph), they calculate.

But it would be significantly worse if the government fails to invest in infrastructure, the head of JICA Myanmar, Masahiko Tanaka, told reporters on January 19.

“Transportation is an urgent issue for Yangon,” he said.

The improvements suggested under YUTRA include the upgrading of railway networks and an eventual mass rapid transit system to take the strain from car-users. The plan also proposes measures including bus rapid transport and an improved traffic management system.

But it will take at least two or three years even to make a dent in the existing poor quality of roads and railway lines. “Trains can’t go faster because the rails are not straight, and the roads have no traffic lights,” said Mr Tanaka, adding that JICA was providing technical assistance.

But YUTRA’s improvements will be costly, says Mr Tanaka.

“The transportation sector alone could cost $10 billion,” he said.

Practical measures to improve the traffic flow so far have ranged from building soaring flyovers and new bridges to laying down lines of concrete blocks to prevent impatient drivers from appropriating oncoming lanes. Smart traffic lights have also been installed at some major junctions. Yet still Yangon residents continue to complain about the traffic.

Yangon Mayor U Hla Myint told a recent press conference he was “ashamed” of having to lay down concrete blocks to create bus lanes.

“No other country does this,” he said. “I’m also ashamed at the criticism of foreigners about Yangon’s traffic.”


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