Japan is heavily involved in the renewal of Myanmar railways, after decades of neglect. Funding has been assigned to the country’s main rail artery linking Yangon to Mandalay. Renovation works are due to start from October for the first phase with a completion date set in 2022/2023.
In January this year, both Japanese and Myanmar governments agreed to upgrade the railroad connecting Yangon and Mandalay, the most important rail link for the country. As reported by The Myanmar Times, Japanese contractors using Japan’s technology will work with Myanmar engineers on the project. The investment will represent a total of JPY500 billion (US$4.4 billion) and is carried by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.
The Yangon-Mandalay railway sees over 3,000 passengers travelling by train on a daily basis. The current journey takes currently 12 hours, however, it often takes 15 hours due to damaged rail infrastructure. Once the entire line modernised, travel time will be cut to an estimated 8 hours for the 615 km long-distance.
The renovation project will be processed in three phases. The first phase is the reconstruction of the Yangon-Taungoo line, which covers 265 km, followed by the Taungoo-Yamaethin part, spanning 190 km. The last phase will see the upgrading of rail tracks between Yamethin-Mandalay with a length of 160 km.
The upgrade will involve not only changing rail tracks but also renewing the rail stations, rail signals, the traffic lights guiding the roads which intersect the railway as well as railroad crossings. They are 38 stations to be upgraded.
The railroad upgrade programme is expected to cut travel time between Yangon and Taungoo to 3.5 hours and the overall Yangon-Mandalay one-way journey to 8 hours. The Yangon-Taungoo part is scheduled to be complete in 2020. The first section of the rail is now starting with the Bago-Nyaunglebin. It will start in October and will take an estimated four years to complete.
Following the overhaul of the infrastructure, Japan will also modernise coaches to bring comfort to international standards. In 2016, Myanmar Railways equipped the line with diesel-electric locomotives and carriages from China. However, the new trains-despite being more powerful did not shorten the travel time, which will only be achieved once the line is fully modernized.