Myanmar Consolidated Media
Education feature story
60th Anniversary of Indonesia~Myanmar

Passengers hope privatisation brings better services

By Juliet Shwe Gaung and Nay Lin Aung
Auguet 1 - 7, 2011

THE impending privatisation of Yangon’s circle train line, which carries up to 100,000 commuters a day, has people talking – and most seem relatively unconcerned by the prospect of higher fares.

A 64-year-old former civil engineer who catches the train from his house in Kyeemyindaing township to visit his grandchildren at a Yangon Institute of Economics hostel at Ywar Thar Gyi said the train is the cheapest transport available.

Tickets are K10 (about 1.25 US cents) for journeys 15 miles (24 kilometres) or less, and K20 for longer trips.

He said he has already read about the likely privatisation and hopes it will lead to better services for commuters.

“When we buy tickets to go to Ywar Thar Gyi my K10 ticket ends at Yangon Station, so I have to get off the train and buy a second ticket. The problem is that I never know how long the train will stop for –it stops for anywhere between one and 10 minutes,” he said.

“If it’s a short stop then I have to rush to buy the ticket and struggle with everybody else trying to do the same thing and then run back to the train. If the train is at another platform then it’s a little dangerous to cross the lines because people are rushing.

“If the network is privatised I’d be pleased to see it made easier to buy tickets for the whole loop around Yangon,” he said on July 28.

His 36-year-old granddaughter said she catches the train to and from her office and sometimes pay K50 for a ticket because there are no other notes available.

“I think commuters would be happy if sufficient notes were on hand for giving change,” she said.

Other commuters said the hoped to see the train carriages kept in better condition and broken seats repaired.

The former engineer added that something needed to be done to eradicate the bedbugs that infest the seats and bite passengers.

However, he worried that if fares were set higher than K50 some economically disadvantaged people would not be able to afford to buy tickets.

“There are many poor people who rely on the train,” he said.

U Sar Mi, a 51-year-old commuter who was waiting to catch the train at 4:30pm back to his house at Hlawga in Yangon’s west, said he had not heard that the train network would be privatised.

U Sar Mi works as a hessian bag trader, buying bags used to transport commodities such as onions in markets and then reselling them elsewhere. On a good day he earns K3000 but said a normal day brings about K2000.

His chosen transport around Yangon is the train because it’s the cheapest way to move himself and his bags, costing only K40 for the whole day. U Sar Mi said catching buses would cost at least K800 for the day.

However, he said that if higher train fares made his work unprofitable he would seek other employment.

“If I stop making money buying and selling bags I’ll just find another job,” he said.

Mingalardon resident U Win Kyi, 57, said he regularly catches the train between his home and downtown said fares of up to K100 were “reasonable”.

“If the train cost K50 for shorter journeys and K100 for a longer trip I think that would be reasonable for passengers to pay,” he said.

U Win Kyi said he worked at the Yangon train station years ago and was not impressed by the maintenance of the carriages.

“Nobody cleans the trains. It would be good if a private company hired one or two cleaners for every train and kept trash bins on each carriage. And I would be very happy if the company managed to kill the bugs that bite you when you sit on the seats,” he said.

He added that the trains are regularly late and hoped that a private company would be better able to keep train on time.

U Win Kyi also worried that if a private company took over the train network many food and drink sellers at stations would lose their livelihoods.