Rangoon’s Water Taxis set for June Launch

By San Yamin Aung 8 May 2017

RANGOON — The chairwoman of a company set to provide water taxi services on Rangoon’s rivers next month has reassured people that the service will be safe and efficient amid criticisms that the project lacks transparency.

Daw Tint Tint Lwin, the chairwoman of Tint Tint Myanmar Company, told a press conference on Friday that she was confident the initiative to ferry passengers along the city’s waterways would succeed.

However, lawmakers fear the implementation of the water taxis may replicate the launch of the city’s revamped bus service, introduced in January, which was criticized for having aggressive staff, a shortage of buses, and being generally unreliable.

Regional parliamentarians have also complained that their questions about the details of Tint Tint Myanmar Company’s plan have been left unanswered, as the company, which won the tender in February, prepares to launch its fleet in the second week of June.

“At first, people will be concerned, but after taking a ride and seeing the advantages of the water buses, such as less pollution, and more convenience, like reading newspapers and drinking coffee while taking a ride, plus no traffic congestion on the rivers, I am sure the demand will be high,” Daw Tint Tint Lwin told reporters.

She said the project was “100 percent our investment” and not a joint venture with the government or another company. Tint Tint Myanmar Company loaned USD$34 million from KBZ Bank for the project, she added.

Known for running river cruises on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers, the firm has bought four used boats—three from Australia and one from Pattaya in Thailand—for the taxi service. The boats can carry 180-200 passengers each and are expected to arrive in Burma within the next 20 days.

The Myanmar Port Authority has approved the construction of 10 boats in Pattaya under an Australian boat builder’s guidance. Twenty boats are also being constructed at a dock in Rangoon’s Seikgyikanaungto Township for the project.

At least 16 boats will connect Hlaing Tharyar and Botahtaung townships with eight stops under the first phase of the project. Two routes along Nga Moe Yeik Creek and Thanlyin Township will follow within three to six months after the jetties have been constructed, she said.

Fifty-six to 67 boats are expected to service the full operation. Daw Tint Tint Lwin said her firm has readied GPS and monitoring systems, and life jackets for every passenger. Each ticket will include travel insurance and emergency rescue teams will be on standby, she added.

The water taxis will run every 20 minutes from 6 a.m. to about 6.30 p.m., with tickets from 300-500 kyats, according to the chairwoman. Phase one of the project will target about 20,000 commuters. In 2018, it aims for an annual 12 million commuters and about 24 million in 2020.

But Daw Tint Tint Lwin declined to disclose the contractual term during which her company would provide the services. The Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA) could not be reached for comment on the contract’s tenure at the time of reporting.

Regional lawmaker Daw Sandar Min criticized Rangoon government in a Facebook post, as no representatives from the YRTA or transport ministry have attended the parliament to address her question from March probing for an update of the water taxis’ implementation.

The water taxi initiative falls under the divisional government’s plans to upgrade public transport services to alleviate worsening traffic jams in the former capital and commercial hub.