Friday, August 18, 2017

‘Death Railway’ to get a new lease on life

The historic Burma Railway, better known as the Death Railway, is in dire need of a facelift.

The Yangon-Mandalay rail tracks will be jointly repaired by Myanmar Railways and JICA. Than Naing Soe / The Myanmar TimesThe Yangon-Mandalay rail tracks will be jointly repaired by Myanmar Railways and JICA. Than Naing Soe / The Myanmar Times

The infamous railway, which is more than 385 miles long, relies on road, signal and communications equipment that is old or outdated and needs to be replaced.

Myanma Railways general manager U Myo Win said a Yangon-Mandalay railroad upgrade would be carried out in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“We will repair parts of the railway that have fallen into disrepair and replace them with modern equipment. We will cooperate with JICA to transfer this technology from Japan,” he said.

The project will be carried out from 2017 to 2023 with an estimated ODA loan of 271.64 billion yen (K3.33 trillion) from Japan and K428 billion from Myanmar.

The work will be done in two phases. The first phase will focus on the 166 miles from Yangon to Taungoo and the second on the 219.5 miles from Taungoo to Mandalay.

“The project may start in 2018. We are conducting studies that will be completed in nine months,” he said.

The project will include repairing the railway, constructing buildings, including railway stations, installing modern signals and communication gear that can assist engine drivers, upgrading technology, introducing and testing modern locomotives and carriages, improving goods transportation tools, and improving customer service, such as with automated ticket-selling machines.

“Currently, the trains travel 60 kilometres per hour. After the project, we will aim for 100kph,” he said.

It usually takes a Yangon-Mandalay train 15 to 16 hours and a goods train 19 to 20 hours. After the project, passenger trains will take 7 hours, 42 minutes, and a goods train 11 hours, 44 minutes, he said.

The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, was built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 during World War II. Many lives were lost in the building of the railway, mainly civilian labourers and prisoners of war. The railway was to serve as a link between Bangkok and Rangoon (now Yangon).

Translation by Khine Thazin Han