UPDATE1: Yangon-Mandalay railway upgrade to complete in 2024, slash travel time

14, Nov. 2018

Transport and Communications Minister Thant Sin Maung (C), Japanese ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama (2nd from right) and JICA Myanmar’s chief representative Masayuki Karasawa (L) attend a ground breaking ceremony at Nyaung Lay Pin Station in the Bago Region, north of Yangon, on Nov. 11, 2018.
Transport and Communications Minister Thant Sin Maung (C), Japanese ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama (2nd from right) and JICA Myanmar’s chief representative Masayuki Karasawa (L) attend a ground breaking ceremony at Nyaung Lay Pin Station in the Bago Region, north of Yangon, on Nov. 11, 2018.

By Yadana Htun

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YANGON, NNA – Myanmar has begun work on upgrading the railway linking the country’s commercial capital Yangon to the second largest city Mandalay, aiming to reduce travel time and enhance transport capacity.

The 620-kilometer railway improvement project, backed by a 263-billion yen ($2.3 billion) soft loan from Japan, is scheduled to be complete in 2024, cutting travel time from the current 15 hours to eight hours, while quadrupling passenger train frequency and boosting cargo shipment capacity about six fold.

State-run Myanma Railways began the first phase of the project on Monday, with Japanese firms Tekken Corp. and Tokyu Construction Co. among others.

“This is the very first step to catch up to our neighbors and we do have ambition to implement a high-speed rail service,” Transport and Communications Minister Thant Sin Maung told NNA.

The upgrade will raise the maximum train speed to 100 kilometers per hour from the current range of 48 to 69 kph.

Myanmar will adopt Japanese safety features, including an automatic train stop system, and import quality rail tracks from Japan to replace the existing ones.

It also plans to replace old diesel rolling stock with electro-diesel hybrid trains in preparation for creating a wholly electric rail system.

The first rail line in Myanmar opened in 1877. Myanma Railways had a \ 3,772-mile (6,770-kilometer) rail network as of 2015, Japanese data showed.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency recommended in 1997 that Myanmar upgrade its Yangon-Mandalay railroad.