Plan underway to resume construction of Minbu-Ann-Sittway railroad project

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It needs to conduct a sectorwise survey to resume construction of Minbu-Ann-Sittway railroad project launched with the Union budget before 2010, said U Aung Kyaw Zan, Rakhine State Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transport.
“The Union government has adopted a plan to connect the main land with Rakhine State through railroads. The axis for the side of main land was searched in hilly parts of Minbu-Ann section around 2010. However, a railroad was built in the side of Rakhine State with the aim of ensuring smooth transport for residents. Although the survey was not conducted too much for construction of the railroad on environmental impact and damage of ancient heritages in the past, local people did not prefer to build the railroad to cross ancient heritage zone on arrival at Kyauktaw and MraukU regions. Hence, construction tasks suspended in Kyauktaw at present,” said the state minister.

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With regard to running the trains, U Aung Kyaw Zan disclosed, “The trains run along the railroad section between Kyauktaw and Ponnagyun. At the same time, other trains also drove along the route from Sittway to Kwantaung. The route could be run along the railroad from the start to end but local people feared to take trains due to unrests of Bengalis in 2012. Now, they gradually relied on the rail transportation but number of passengers is not so many. The majority of passengers are those from rural areas.”
Concerning the aims of Myanma Railways, the state minister noted, “Myanma Railways operates its rail transportation with losses for smooth transportation of local people. In fact, trains are running along this part of railroad in Rakhine State. However, it needs to search new axis for construction of railroad from Kyauktaw to MraukU dodging the part of ancient heritage zone. Myanma Railways will not use the old route.”

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“In fact, the government cannot give compensation for use of farmlands in its project area to the local farmers. Hence, preparations are being made to hand over the farmlands to local farmers without losing original forms of farmlands by bulldozer. Rail tracts have been re-taken out from the route and sent back to the main land. Pieces of granite were also re-taken from the route. Now, the area of railroad route remains earthen ones only. Pits have been refilled with soil. Farming dykes were rebuilt. In implementing the project, the Union government provides assistance and expertise to Rakhine State government in searching the axis. Moreover, the Union government will allot budget for the project. Construction of the railroad needs much technologies and monetary assistance because it will be a large project to cross the whole Rakhine mountain range. Now, the project is under planning. If construction of a route plans to pass the ancient cultural region in Rakhine State, it needs to seek a permit from the Department of Archaeology and National Museum. It needs to avoid the designated site in construction,” he said.
“As such, construction tasks will face many difficulties such as crossing the rivers, creeks and new places. It is possible that if money is spent adequately, searching of new axis will have achievement. In other countries, they would dig tunnels in the mountain ranges similar to Rakhine mountain range. I would like to express my hope at least one railroad should be constructed in Rakhine State. In so doing, it needs to do many surveys and researches such as budget and expertise possibility survey, environmental impact assessment and social impact assessment, things whether Department of Archaeology and National Museum approves it or not and how to dodge the ancient heritage region. Another one is to conduct sectorwise surveys on cost effectiveness and growth of economy. Upon completion, they should resume the project,” said State Minister U Aung Kyaw Zan.
Sittway Branch of Myanma Railways under the Ministry of Transport and Communications manages 54.08 miles long Sittway-Kyauktaw railroad section which is combined with two sections—the 11.46 miles long Pyidawtha-Yechanbyin railroad section and the 42.62 miles long Kwantaung-Kyauktaw railroad section.
A total of 11 railway stations exist along the road sections—Pyidawtha-Sittway-Zawpuja-Yechanbyin section and Yechanbyin-Kwantaung-Ponnagyun-Aungphyubyin-Yoetayoke-Ganantaung-Apaukwa-Kyauktaw section. At this juncture, Myanma Railways operates trains along the 11.46 miles long section Pyidawtha-Yechanbyin section in Sittway Township with loss for fares. Based on the rail transport fare, Myanma Railways collects K50 per station. It collects K1,150 per distance of railway station, K2,250 per two stations and K3,350 per three stations from university students and faculty members on a monthly basis.
“A plan is underway to build Sittway-Kyauktaw-MraukU-Ann-Minbu railroad. If the railroad reaches Minbu, it will be the best. At present, the train runs along Pyidawtha-Yechanbyin railroad section. Kwantaung-Kyauktaw section was halted. If the railroad reaches the main land of the nation, rail transportation will improve for the people. In fact, rail transportation is the best. In Rakhine State, railroad is close to seaside towns. Nowadays, international tourists pay visits to various famous designations across the nation including Gokteik Viaduct in Shan State, ancient Bagan cultural region in Mandalay Region and Inle in Shan State. Indeed, it is cliché move. If rail transportation services can be given here, tourism industry will boom much in Rakhine State,” said U Nyi Nyi Lwin, Sittway Branch Manager of Myanma Railways.
Railway stations along the route were severally closed due to impacts of Komen cyclonic storm, some conflicts and conditions of roads and bridges. Kwantaung-Kyauktaw railroad section was closed on 14 March 2019 due to regional situations.

Translated by Than Tun Aung

By Thant Zin Win (MNA)

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