Japan funds Myanmar rail remake

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YANGON, 13 September 2018: Work on a major upgrade of the Yangon-Mandalay rail track will start this October, but it will take at least four years to complete.

The rail track that covers a distance of 621.2 km will undergo an upgrade that will ensure trains can operate reliably between Myanmar’s two largest cities.

According to a report in Myanmar Times a Japanese company will upgrade the Bago-Nyaunglebin section of the Yangon-Mandalay railway line after signing a contract last week.

Details were released by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is supporting the project with loans and consultancy.

The project is being carried out under the framework of the Myanma Railways using the latest Japanese rail technology and is scheduled for completion by 2023.

JICA is also financially supporting upgrades with grants and low-interest loans on other sections of the Yangon-Mandalay railway line.

The project covering four years will upgrade the entire 621.2 km Yangon-Mandalay line including bridges and landscaping by Japanese engineers.

As part of the deal Japan will bring in new railroad equipment for the route and fully restore existing rolling stock and engines.

In a statement to Myanmar Times a JICA official noted: “Passengers will be transported from one city to another in quiet comfort,” adding that the company will repair train engines and passenger cars bring them up to international standards.

The entire project has been divided into three sections; Yangon-Toungoo, Toungoo-Yamaethin, and Yamaethin-Mandalay.

Myanma Railways will be indebted to a tune of USD2.49 billion mainly in the form of JICA loans.

Once completed the travelling time between the two cities will reduce from 14 hours to eight. Today, trains travel at around 60 kph, but after the upgrade they should be able to achieve speeds of 100 kph.

The rail line is an essential link for commerce between Yangon and Mandalay but it is also popular with tourists who want to avoid air travel in the country.  Rail travel is considered safer than private bus travel.

Originally, built during World War II by the Japanese occupying army the rail track merged with a line in Thailand and was part of the notorious “Death Railway” built by forced labour and prisoners of war.

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