Parliament Ponders Japanese Loan to Continue Railway Upgrades

By Moe Moe 16 March 2018

YANGON — The Ministry of Transport and Communications on Thursday sought approval from Parliament for a 56.622 billion yen ($536 million) loan to continue upgrading the country’s rail system.

The loan would be used to buy locomotives, carriages and sleepers and to improve the signal and control system, Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications U Tha Oo told Parliament.

He said the ministry borrowed 20 billion yen from Japan in September 2014 and another 25 billion yen in March 2017 to improve the rail network.

The ministry has been upgrading the Yangon-Mandalay rail line with the two earlier loans — the 267 km Yangon-Toungoo section in Phase 1 and the 354 km Toungoo-Mandalay section in Phase 2, which is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

The upgrades will reduce travel times as trains will be able to run at a speed of 100 km per hour. Trains currently run at 64 km per hour, the deputy minister said.

“Currently it takes around 15 hours from Yangon to Mandalay, and the deputy minister said upgrading the railroad was estimated to reduce the travel time to eight hours. If so, I support taking the loan because it will improve commodity flow,” lawmaker U Thant Zin Tun, of Naypyitaw’s Dekkhinathiri Township, told The Irrawaddy.

Myanma Railways is also upgrading the Yangon circle line with financial support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Of the more than 400 locomotives operated by Myanma Railways, nearly half are past their service life and a quarter of the roughly 1,200 carriages in operation are in poor condition.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation also sought approval from Parliament for a 30.469 billion yen loan from JICA.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.