New joint venture to bring order to Yangon bus chaos

The Yangon Region government is forming a new public-private partnership (PPP) company, as part of a city-wide reform of the chaotic public transport system. Bus line owners are eagerly awaiting the overhaul, but want the authorities to provide infrastructure and financial aid to help them manage the shift.

The government set up a public-private sector joint venture last year – Yangon PPP Company – to oversee a new Bus Rapid Transit system for the country’s largest city. The new system – BRT Lite – began operating earlier this year using new vehicles, which drive in a dedicated lane and have priority over ordinary buses.

The scheme was based on a 2013 plan by the Japan International Cooperation Agency for a Bus Rapid Transit system.

But BRT Lite operates on only two routes, and thus far has brought limited order to the madness of Yangon’s bus system, in which privately owned bus lines compete on the same routes for the same passengers. Bus drivers are notorious for their reckless driving, and conductors for their rapacity and rudeness. Bus staff are not paid a regular wage, but live off what they can extract from hapless passengers.

U Maung Aung, chair of Yangon PPP Company, told The Myanmar Times that the government is forming a new PPP firm as part of a complete upgrade of Yangon’s bus transport system. There have already been discussions with bus line owners about the details, he added, and the new firm could be formed within the next week.

The new city-wide system would be similar to BRT Lite in using news buses and electronic ticketing, he said. Existing owners of Yangon bus lines are being consulted on the new system, but if they are not able to replace their older vehicles they will not be allowed to operate in downtown areas or on main roads, he said.

Ko Ta Yoke Lay, who owns the No 45 bus line, is eager to see a new PPP-managed system.

“We bus line owners can’t give good service and meet customers’ requirements,” he said. “The change [to the proposed system] would benefit owners, bus workers and commuters. This system should have been brought in years ago, and I think the change can be made quite quickly.”

BRT Lite customers have given that new system strong reviews.

Ko Ta Yoke Lay said shifting to a city-wide PPP-managed system would be easy, but the government should also build new infrastructure like bus stops and raise technical requirements, Ko Ta Yoke Lay added.

“The government should also help us exchange old buses for new ones. Korean-made Hyundai buses cost over US$10,000 each,” he said.

Yangon PPP Company issued a tender last year for firms to import buses for the BRT Lite system. Of the five firms that were selected, only one was not a direct investor in Yangon PPP Company. Chinese, Korean and Swedish bus models were chosen.

Ko Ta Yoke Lay suggested the government help bus line operators buy new buses on a long-term, low-interest hire-purchase scheme in cooperation with local banks.

U Maung Aung said the plan was to sell old buses to other regions or states and substitute them with new ones. These would be bought on a hire-purchase system with help from banks, and discussions with potential lenders are taking place this week, he added.

Other bus line operators said the government could help owners with the shift by reducing the tax on imported vehicles.

“Bus owners are paying about twice the cost of the bus when they import it. If the government were to reduce port tax, Road Transport Administration Department registration tax and import tax, prices would fall,” said the owner of the No 48 bus line.

“There are around 7000 public transport buses on the street, and swapping them for new ones will require government help and a shift in regulations,” he said.

U Maung Aung said the government’s plan is to reduce the number of lines from around 300 down to 50, but the number of buses will not go down.

“By establishing one line for each route, we will reduce congestion, but without reducing bus numbers,” said U Maung Aung. “Changing to the PPP system will take around four months. It would be better if the government starts as quickly as possible and provides a lot of help.”

Yangon PPP Company was set up with K10 billion from the government and K2.5 million from five private companies. U Maung Aung said the government will invite new firms to join the new PPP venture. The government will support the new firm if it faces losses, but it was not yet clear whether the government would invest upfront capital, he added.

Yangon PPP Company began selling shares to the public in November last year, and the new firm would also issue equity, U Maung Aung added.

 

Source: The Myanmar Times

 

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