Yangon-Mandalay railway upgrade stalls as Japan delays providing tracks

Sunrise over the Yangon-Mandalay railway in Nov. 2001. Photo: Stefan Fussan
Sunrise over the Yangon-Mandalay railway in Nov. 2001. Photo: Stefan Fussan

A major overhaul of the Yangon-Mandalay railway that was meant to begin earlier this year has been delayed because Japan has failed to provide the railway tracks it pledged to the project, according to a Myanma Railways official.

“We can’t start the upgrading project because Japan delayed in sending its railway tracks,” Myanma Railways assistant manager Kyaw Myo Lwin told Eleven. He added that the project is now expected to begin in October, after the rainy season. In the meantime, Myanma Railways will carry out parts of the project that are meant to come from its own budget, like paving and laying sleepers.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is contributing a loan of US$2 billion to the five-year project, which is meant to “repair parts of the railway that have fallen into disrepair and replace them with modern equipment.” Most of the new parts will be transported from Japan.

The upgrade will also give the railway a modern train-monitoring system.

The Yangon-Mandalay railway is 385.5 miles long. Once the upgrade is completed, six express trains, two postal trains, and four other trains will run on it. This will include two of the 18 locomotives Myanmar recently bought from India using a loan of US$200 million.

Only one of the railway’s two tracks will remain open while the project is being implemented.

The journey between Yangon and Mandalay currently takes 15 hours by train. Officials hope to get that number down to seven hours after the renovations.

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