Traffic congestion is a major problem across Yangon, made worse by the poor state of city’s roads and the absence of an integrated system of public transportation.
Touted as one of solution for Yangon’s traffic jam, Yangon Water Bus made debut on October 7 after being delayed for nearly three months. Handed by the Tint Tint Myanmar (TTM), The Yangon Water Bus (YWB) project was administrated by the Government. YRTA invited tenders from November 20 to December 26, 2016. Two companies submitted proposals; however the other one was found having no experience. Tint Tint Myanmar had experience with water transportation. Tint Tint Myanmar, which has been running the Irrawaddy Princess Cruise between Mandalay and Bagan, won the tender. Tint Tint Myanmar was subsequently selected to operate Yangon Water Bus in February.
According to authorized person from Tint Tint Myanmar, they didn’t kick off as they expected on account of the administrative requirements. Tint Tint Myanmar started the business with an initial investment of 37 billion Kyats ($ 22 million).
Initially, it intended to run 16 ships, but only 13 ships is operating at present. Three imported ships from Australia which can carry each 180-230 passengers, three ships from Thailand which a capacity of 60 passengers and seven locally constructed ships which can carry 150 passengers cruise daily from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm during office hours. To comply with rules and regulations, TTM has arranged to provide enough life jackets for all passengers and all ships are equipped with GPS system. Ships will be managed through a control center technology from Hungary. Information will be displayed at the jetties to notify passengers of trip times and departure docks. Passengers are requested to avoid littering the river, not to eat betel liquid nor spit out on the floor and not to smoke while onboard.
Bus (YWB) said they are careful of overloading the water buses. At the end of the journey, the passengers have to get off the buses regardless of which bus stop they had got on from. They will not accept even one person over the passenger limit. There is also a plan to set up a boat stop near Pun Hlaing estate as well. Insein route will be expanded to Shwe Pyithar in the future.
Trip times as well as departure docks information will be displayed at the jetties. The boats will leave the jetty every 20 minutes. Captains of the water bus were all required to have license of at least 10 years of experience with water vessels. The YWB will issue prepaid cards linked with Anypay card system that can be pre-loaded with a minimum of Ks500. The company also arranged for light food aboard, with reasonable prices.
Thirteen boats will connect Bohtataung and Insein townships with seven stops; Bohtataung Terminal (Bohtataung Pagoda compound), Nan Thi Da Terminal (Pansodan Street), Lan Thit Jetty (Lan Thit Street), Kyee Myindaing Terminal (Kyee Myaing Kanar Road, near Zay Gyee Street), Hlaing Terminal (Hlaing Station Road, next to Shwe Padauk Fish market), Punn Hlaing (Punn Hlaing Golf Estate) and Insein Terminal (Aung Zay Ya Bridge).
Tint Tint, CEO of Tint Tint Myanmar said “according to the customers’ requirement, the routes and stops will be expanded under the Yangon regional government’s instructions. I understand there are concerns about water travel. But it is a way to reduce air pollution and there is no congestion, too. A lot more people will be interested in water buses if they’re aware of their advantages.” Regarding expanding plan of Yangon Water Bus (YWB), she added “the expanded plan will be implemented according to increasing number of the passengers. Two routes along Nga Moe Yeik Creek and Thanlyin Township will follow within three to six months after the jetties there have been constructed”. At the opening ceremony of the YWB, Yangon Region Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein said the water bus system aim to decrease the congested traffic in Yangon by providing another option of public transportation.
Responsible person from Yangon Road Transport Authority (YRTA) said government take no charge from Tint Tint Myanmar for the time being because their investment amount is big and 300 Kyats per person is cheap. Dr Maung Aung, the Secretary of the Yangon Region Transport Authority, said the Botahtaung-Insein route is the first of three planned routes and the other two will be from Nyaungdan to North Dagon and from Star City Thanlyin.
Around 70 boats are expected to service the full blown operation, which aims to serve an annual 12 million commuters this year and a projected 24 million by 2020. Currently, statistics show 3.7 million, or 79 percent, of Yangon resident use buses for their daily commute, 7 percent catching ferries, 4 percent riding circle trains and 2 percent taking taxis.