After a Long Wait, Commuter Tram May Finally Reach Rangoon

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 6 January 2016

RANGOON — An electric commuter tram is set to launch on Jan. 10, Myanmar Railways announced on Wednesday, after months of delays left passengers weary of waiting.

The 150-passenger line, originally set to launch in October but set back by infrastructure delays, was envisioned by the company in a US$3.6 million collaboration with Japanese West Corporation as a way to ease traffic in the congested city center.

Myanmar Railways said the project will be rolled out in three phases, beginning this month with a four-mile track along Strand Road spanning from Wardan to Linsadaung. General Manager Tun Aung Thin told The Irrawaddy that the route will be extended to a total of seven miles over the next fiscal year.

The tram’s five initial stations will service some of downtown’s busiest townships, with stops at Wardan, Sintohedan, Pansodan, Botahtaung and Linsadaung. Trams will make 10 rounds daily from 7am to 3:15pm at a cost of 100 kyat (US$0.8) per passenger.

“We decided to start with the Strand Road route because there’s already a cargo rail there,” Tun Aung Thin said on Wednesday. “If we’re able to successfully run a tram on this route during the early phases, commuters will become familiar with the system.”

While the project’s corporate backers are confident that the tram will help ease congestion in the bustling former capital, others are not so sure. Maung Aung, an economist working for the Ministry of Commerce and a consultant for the city’s bus rapid transit system, said the new tram line could complicate matters.

“Strand Road isn’t a traffic hot spot,” he said. “If people from the other side [of the Rangoon River] want to use the tram, we would need another water taxi.”