Government seeks private funding for BRT system

A public transport scheme that would provide an express bus service along 150 kilometres of Yangon’s main roads could be available within three months, transport chiefs hope.

Known as “BRT lite”, the scheme is based on a plan drawn up in 2013 by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for a Bus Rapid Transit system intended to cover much of the city. The less-ambitious version was chosen because it costs less than the original plan, which calls for dedicated bus lanes and reconfigured traffic signals.

To help pay for the scheme, the government is proposing a so-called Private-Public Partnership system (PPP), it was announced at a press conference in Yangon on May 4.

For the first stage of the project, with an estimated cost of K25 billion (US$22.97 million), the government would provide K10 billion and invite the public to invest the remaining K15 billion. The total sum envisaged for the project would be about K100 billion.

U Maung Aung, an adviser with the Ministry of Commerce, told the press conference the public would be able to buy shares at K100,000 apiece.

“In the PPP system, the government would take care of the infrastructure, such as the roads, with its 40 percent investment. The rest of the money would come from the public,” he said.

The government has not yet stated what infrastructure upgrades it will make with the K10 billion. While existing bus lines will continue as normal, it is also unclear whether they will be able to benefit from the infrastructure upgrades, or whether these will be reserved for the BRT service.

U Maung Aung said the proposed PPP system would improve the safety and reliability of the bus service by using left-hand drive buses with air-conditioning, operated by salaried drivers and using the iPay card system to collect fares, controlled by a centralised body.

“Public transport is not safe now because private owners maximise their profit. Their drivers break traffic laws. Private owners are welcome to participate in the PPP according to the conditions we define,” said U Maung Aung.

The system would initially run from its base in Htaukkyant to 8 Mile junction, from where buses will travel along both Pyay and Kabar Aye Pagoda roads – a trip of 25.68km. An extension to phase one will see routes added to cross streets connecting Hlaing Tharyar to 8 Mile, Dagon University to Parami Road and Thilawa Special Economic Zone to Botahtaung Pagoda Road.

U Tin Maung Kyi, head of YCDC’s roads and bridges department, said the entire system would eventually cover 149.91km.

“We chose the BRT [lite] system in order to avoid delay. Yangon City Development Committee and the Ministry of Construction can maintain these roads,” he said.

There is no limit to the number of shares investors can buy. “This will save commuters time, and the card system for fare payment will be more convenient. Customers want something done about congestion, and the president has directed us to implement the system within three months if we can,” said Yangon Region Chief Minister U Myint Swe.

U Maung Aung added, “Yangon is growing in wealth and population. It’s time to get people out of their cars and into public transport.”

He said the government’s other attempts to relieve Yangon’s traffic congestion were working, citing the Ministry of Commerce’s requirement since January 1 that car importers show that they can provide sufficient parking space for imported vehicles. “As a result, 5000 fewer cars were imported in March,” he said. “In the past, 15,000 or 20,000 cars were being imported every month.”

U Ko Ko Naing, who owns a bus on both the No 31 and G2000 lines, said he wasn’t concerned about the threat from a government-backed BRT system.

“We will face many rivals. The commuters will also have many choices,” he said. “But we aren’t worried … In that system, the buses are owned by many people, unlike us. We can take care of our buses well, because it’s natural that the owner wants to look after their property.”

Another owner, U Min Zaw, from North Okkalapa, said he welcomed the system and would consider taking part.

“But the government should not discriminate against non-BRT buses,” he said.

He added that the fare should depend on the distance travelled, rather than a fixed amount as used on the “special” buses. “For example, if you travel 1 mile, you pay K20. I don’t want special buses anymore – all buses should be treated the same.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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