Tender planned for $2b Yangon-Mandalay railway upgrade

A Tender for private companies to work on a US$2.2 billion upgrade of the railway linking Myanmar’s two largest cities will be called at the end of this year, an official said yesterday.

Work on the Yangon-Mandalay railway, led by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is scheduled to start next year and should be complete by 2025, said U Ba Myint, general manager of Myanma Railways, under the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

“Bids for purchasing items for the railway upgrade project, which will be implemented in phases, will be called at the end of the year,” he said.

“Passengers are turning to rail travel because there are more and more car accidents these days. That is why we have to improve the safety of our railway system.”

The transport and communications minister has asked the Japanese ambassador to fast-track the project, he said.

Travelling the 622 kilometres (386 miles) by train between Yangon and Mandalay now takes at least 16 hours, but will take just eight once the project is finished. The former deputy transport minister told parliament in 2014 that trains would eventually travel at up 100km (62 miles) an hour.

Upgrades will be based on a JICA study. Japan is famous for its trains, especially the Shinkansen, a high-speed cross-country rail network.

The Japanese government and private sector have been working with Myanma Railways for some time. In 2014, JICA signed an overseas development assistance loan agreement to modernise the Yangon-Mandalay line.

Last year, Mitsubishi Corporation and Hitachi signed a 2.4 billion yen ($20 million) deal to supply and install railway signaling systems on part of the line. Later the same year Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe committed to a $250 million soft loan to modernise Yangon’s 46km circular railway.

Japan is not the only country interested in upgrading Myanmar’s railways. China has long had ambitions to link a deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State by rail with Muse on the Myanmar-China border.

The line would have passed through Ann, Minbu, Magwe, Mandalay and Lashio, but was put on hold in 2014.

Source: The Myanmar Times

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