China’s Higer dominates highway express bus routes

As competition among highway express companies increases, the focus is increasingly on quality and safety. The industry has been transformed over the past few years by the importation of more comfortable buses and a huge change in the expectations of the travelling public, bus line owners say.

Six years ago the Greater Man Group started importing Chinese-made Higer buses to replace the worn- out vehicles they had previously used, said CEO Ko Win Myo Chit.

Others followed suit, and Joyous Journey, which operates the JJ Express service, also started running brand-new Higer buses.

“In 2011, the government changed their policy to allow vehicles for business use to be imported. Before this, only Japanese and Korean vehicles could be used, and they were very expensive. The policy shift brought great changes,” said Ko Win Myo Chit.

Competition for the inter-city express bus travel market heated up in 2013 and 2014, forcing some bus line owners out of business, he said.

“They couldn’t compete in the market economy. Now, customers don’t care about the name of the bus line. They concentrate on comfort and service.”

Now the range of bus types is much wider, with seat capacity ranging from 12 to 45 people, the quality is higher and companies offer special deals to attract customers. “Now we are more profit-oriented. And owners know that a small fleet cannot bring in big profits,” said Ko Win Myo Chit.

Safety and regular maintenance are also increasingly important concerns. “Bus owners owe a commitment to their passengers. Everybody wants to cut the highway accident toll. Regular maintenance is essential.”

According to a recent World Health Organization survey, Myanmar is the second-worst country for road deaths per capita in Southeast Asia.

Government data shows accident rates on the roads have been rising for more than 10 years, with an average of 11.2 people dying each day last year – roughly 4000 deaths in total.

At Yangon’s huge Aung Mingalar Highway bus terminal, about 60 of the 130 bus lines use Higer buses. Another 70 lines operate out of Dagon Ayeyar highway compound, also in Yangon.

On May 30, GI Group added 20 Higer buses to its fleet, serving the Yangon-Mandalay, Yangon-Muse and other routes.

“These are European Higers. The engine, gearbox and axle are made in Germany and the United States and assembled in Shanghai. I think these 46-seaters will be very popular with the customers,” said Ko Win Myo Chit.

Bus owners want the government to reduce the high taxes levied on new bus imports. “A change in government policy will allow businesses to invest and help develop the economy and the tourism industry,” said Ko Win Myo Chit. Higer has sold about 1000 buses in Myanmar, including those used in Yangon’s new BRT Lite rapid transportation system.

 

Source: Myanmar Times

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