Auto group to invest in new bus system

The Myanmar Automobile Manufacturers and Distributors Association (MAMDA) plans to invest into a new bus system that promises to transform travel for Yangon’s commuters.

The new system, known as bus rapid transit (BRT) lite, will include dedicated bus lanes, as well as new buses to replace existing ancient vehicles. MAMDA hopes to be involved as soon as possible, said chair U Soe Tun.

“We propose to become part of the BRT lite system as soon as we can. At first we plan to invest in the buses, but later we would also like to use our compound to build the bus terminal,” he said.

The BRT lite system is based on a 2013 paper by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) proposing a bus rapid transit system intended to cover much of the city. The new plan is less ambitious and cheaper, and the government announced in May that it would be funded through a private-public partnership (PPP).

Then, earlier this month, U Maung Aung, adviser to the Ministry of Commerce, announced that the PPP would include a government investment of K10 billion, while Capital Diamond Star Group, Shwe Taung Group of Companies, Shwe Than Lwin Company, Zayar and Associates, and one other firm would invest K500 million each.

Founding investors were required to pay K500 million, but MAMDA can only spend K100 million, said U Soe Htun. As such, it will invest the money when the group begins to sell shares to private shareholders.

“We can’t invest K500 million and I’m afraid this limit was set to support crony companies,” said U Soe Htun. “But chairman Dr Maung Aung said they need founders who don’t mind making a loss on their investment for one or two years, in case the BRT lite system is not a success. In addition, it will be difficult to share the profit if there are too many shareholders,” he said.

MAMDA has also proposed that the BRT committee use its compound near to Thanlyin Bridge to build a bus terminal where phase two of the BRT lite system will run from downtown Yangon to Thilawa Industrial Zone. The Yangon Region Chief Minister is still considering this proposal, said U Soe Htun.

Initially, the committee planned to use vehicles from existing bus company owners, but this plan has since changed, and they will now use new buses, he said.

“As far as I know, the committee will not accept old buses. The old plan of collecting buses from existing owners was not a success. They called a tender to import buses through state-owned newspapers earlier this month,” said U Soe Htun. He added that the BRT bus line will run in parallel with existing bus lines.

Most public buses are owned by private companies. Drivers have been criticised for driving carelessly and breaking the rule of the roads as they try to compete with one another and the current bus system has been identified as a major factor leading to traffic congestion. However, it will be hard to close the existing companies and replace them with a single unified service, said U Soe Htun.

“We will support this as much as we can. Everybody says the government should upgrade Yangon’s public transport to become like Singapore or Japan,” he said.

“But the situation is not the same – the citizens of Myanmar can’t afford to spend so much on public transportation.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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