Pilot Yangon bus upgrade to be funded through share sale

The company, which was set up with K10 billion from the government and K2.5 million from five private companies, will begin selling shares on November 3, said U Maung Aung, chair of the BRT lite establishment committee, at an investor education event on October 30.

He said the company plans to sell 1000 shares at K100,000 each, with shareholders promised annual returns equal to or higher than the Central Bank’s interest rate of 13pc.

Investors should think carefully before buying shares, said the president’s economic adviser U Aung Htun Thet, at the event. “The company must also ensure transparency to all shareholders,” he said.

The project will cost K25 billion, with the government shouldering 40 percent of the costs, and private investors putting up the remaining 60pc, he said.

The plan was first announced in May this year. Known as BRT lite, the system is an abridged and cheaper version of a city-wide bus network plan drawn up by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2013.

It received the green light from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration in the last week of October, said Yangon Region Chief Minister U Myint Swe. The government will take responsibility for building supporting infrastructure such as new bus stations, he said.

The system will use new buses, which will drive in a dedicated lane on the right hand side of the road. Ordinary buses will have to give priority to the new buses, said company officials. BRT buses will initially run along Pyay Road and Kabar Aye Pagoda Road – the city’s two main thoroughfares.

“There are currently 49 daily bus lines running on Pyay Road and 45 on Kabar Aye Pagoda Road, transporting nearly 700,000 commuters every day,” said U Hla Aung, chair of the Yangon Region Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicles, better known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Hta Tha.

“I don’t think the BRT buses will have an impact on the existing bus lines,” he said. If the new system is a success, the government will consider more changes to Yangon’s bus system, but for now existing bus companies will still be able to operate as normal.

U Ko Ko Naing, owner of the No 31 buses, said the new scheme will have limited impact. “But we will need to care more about maintenance,” he said. “If not, we won’t be able to compete with the BRT buses – our vehicles are not brand new.”

The new project will start small, with buses running four times a day between 6:30am and 9:30pm, each carrying up to 80 people. The company has already bought 65 buses for the initial route, which are expected to start running in early January.

Five companies are responsible for supplying the new buses, including Greater Man International Trading which will import a Chinese brand called Higer, and Capital Development which will import China’s King Long city buses.

Myanmar Coach Centre Company will import Korea’s Daewoo buses, General Arr Mahn Thit Company will import the Hyundai Super Aero City Bus and Octagon International Services Company will import Scania’s Neo Buses. The buses will arrive in Myanmar at the end of November.

Four of the five Myanmar companies have invested capital into the BRT lite venture, with the exception of Greater Man International Trading, said U Maung Aung.

He hopes the new buses will reduce commuter travelling time. “People waste two or three hours commuting every day and the existing public buses are not safe. We also hope to make travelling more comfortable,” he said.

Under the current system, drivers compete against one another for custom, and are paid according to their success. Drivers of BRT lite buses, on the other hand, will be paid a monthly wage.

Commuters agree that it’s time for change. “The buses should be upgraded as soon as possible,” said Ma Hnin Moe from Insein township. “Commuters are spending up to four hours travelling each day. BRT buses will hopefully cut travel time, but the fares should be no more than K500 per journey, so that everyone can afford them.”

U Soe Htun, chair of the Myanmar Automobile Manufacturers and Distributors Association, said that as Myanmar is a developing country, people are unable to pay high bus fares. “In other countries, one bus journey can cost between K800 and K1700, but the public here can’t pay this much,” he said.

Bus fares in Yangon now range from K100 to K300, he said. “The BRT buses must compromise on fares. If not, some people will be unable to afford to travel.”

The BRT fares have not yet been disclosed. The new buses will use an iPay system in addition to collecting fares in cash, said U Maung Aung. Attempts four years to introduce an iPay system were abandoned due to opposition from bus conductors, who feared a loss of earnings.

U Maung Aung said that the BRT lite system is the most effective and simplest way to solve traffic jams. Congestion in Yangon is hurting productivity and morale, he said.

“We must save Yangon. This project will be carried out regardless of changes in the government [after the November 8 election].”

Source: Myanmar Times

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