Railway ministry to privatise Gokteik Viaduct charter trains

Myanmar Railways will call a tender for private companies to operate two charter trains that run across the Gokteik Viaduct, the highest railway bridge in Myanmar.

The ministry will advertise the project through state media. The privatisation process is likely to take two months, officials told a press conference on February 12.

Early last year Myanma Railways launched a service for tourists across the viaduct in northern Shan State. The RGC 110 train can carry between 20 and 25 passengers from Nawngcho to Naungpain.

However, the service found few takers, with just 15 bookings made in six months. The high price tag could have been a factor – the 75-minute, 26-kilometre (16-mile) journey costs K100,000 per person, while a local train, which travels the same route, has tickets selling at just a few dollars.

Companies will now be invited to operate the RGC 100 train and the Rail Bus Engine, another charter service that can carry up to 50 passengers on a 10-minute trip across the viaduct, at a cost of K5000 per head, or K250,000 in total.

Officials said take-up for the charter services had increased during the tourist season.

Between October and January this year, 71 bookings were made, said U Kyaw Kyaw Myo, deputy general manager at the ministry’s commercial and marketing department in Nay Pyi Taw.

“The private [operator] will have to maintain the viaduct and ensure the safety of the passengers, and will not be allowed to sell tickets at more than 10pc of the train’s capacity,” he said.

Myanma Railways will pay travel insurance, he added. “We will calculate the cost of staff salaries, maintenance and so on, and will set a floor price. If a private company will pay more than this, we’ll call it profit for Myanma Railways.”

The public trains are dangerous, he added. “People are standing and there is very little space. We will think of other ways to tackle this problem, but we have a low number of staff compared with the passengers.”

In the two weeks since January 28, 5500 people have come by car and train to visit the viaduct, he said.

Last December, railway officials banned pedestrians from walking along the bridge as a safety measure. The 115-year-old overpass was built to take trains only, and there is no pedestrian access.

The bridge was the largest railway trestle in the world upon its completion in 1901. Located in the centre of the country, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Mandalay, it has a maximum height of 102 metres (335 feet) and spans 689m (2260 feet) across the ravine.

 

Source: Myanmar Times

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