More comfortable but for the moment not any quicker – Myanma Railways yesterday launched its new Yangon-Mandalay service with diesel electric locomotives and carriages bought from China.
Three of 11 locomotives bought from the China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation have started running following tests and checks carried out since delivery last November, Railways Minister U Nyan Htun Aung said.
The 2000-horsepower locomotives, now the most powerful in Myanmar, are made by China’s CSR Sifang. The total cost of the contract was put at 11.3 million euros (US$12.3 million).
The trains will leave Yangon and Mandalay daily at 3pm, said general manager U Win Oo of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Department of Myanma Railways.
Each train pulls nine ordinary carriages and three upper-class carriages. Engineers explained how the air cushion suspension system will provide a more comfortable ride without the “jumping and writhing” that older trains are well known for inflicting on their passengers.
Upper-class carriages will also have CCTV cameras for passenger safety.
Tickets will cost K4650 for ordinary seats and K9300 for upper class. The 388-mile journey will still take around 14 hours however.
“This trains will feel comfortable for passengers but it can’t reduce the running time,” said U Ohn Kyi, Myanmar Railways deputy general manager.
It will also require public education in a country where people and animals regularly wander along the tracks.
“People crossing over the tracks are a big reason for delays. People are dying every day because they cross the tracks by unauthorised crossings. We want people to cooperate by obeying the rules,” U Ohn Kyi said.
The railways ministry has also borrowed $94.5 million from China to develop Myanmar’s own locomotives industry in a program that began in 2013.
The eight remaining locomotives in the contract are due to arrive later this year.