Rail transport in Myanmar consists of a 6,207.644 km (3,857 mi) railway network with 960 stations. The network, generally spanning north to south with branch lines to the east and west, is the second largest in Southeast Asia, and includes the Yangon Circular Railway which serves as a commuter railway for Yangon, the principal commercial city in Myanmar. The quality of the railway infrastructure is generally poor. The tracks are in poor condition, and are not passable during the monsoon season. The speed of freight trains is heavily restricted on all existing links as a consequence of poor track and bridge conditions. The maximum speed for freight trains has been quoted as 24 km/h (15 mph), suggesting that commercial speeds on this section could be as low as 12–14 km/h (7.5–8.7 mph).
The network is run by Myanma Railways (Burmese: မြန်မာ့ မီးရထား, pronounced [mjəma̰ míjətʰá]; also spelled Myanmar Railways; formerly Burma Railways), a state-owned railway company under the Ministry of Rail Transportation. In the 2013-14 fiscal year, Myanmar Railways carried about 60 million passengers (35 million in the circular railway and 25 million inter-city travelers) and 2.5 million metric tons of freight. Its rolling stock consisted of 384 locomotives, 1,600 passenger railcars, and 3,600 freight wagons.
The network has steadily increased in size over the last two decades, from nearly 5,500 kilometres (3,400 mi) in 1988 to 6,207.644 kilometres (3,857.251 mi) in 2015. Myanmar Railways is currently undertaking an ambitious expansion program that will add another 3,645 km (2,265 mi) to its network, making it spread in to 13,941 km (8,663 mi) including extensions to Myeik in the south, Kyaingtong in the east, Sittwe in the west.[verification needed]
Main article: History of rail transport in Myanmar
Rail transport was first launched in British Burma on 2 May 1877 with the opening of the 259-kilometre (161 mi) Rangoon (Yangon) to Prome (Pyay) line by The Irrawaddy Valley State Railway. Unusually for a British colonial railway, it was built to 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+3⁄8 in) metre gauge. Subsequent development was to the same gauge, though the 80 kilometres (50 mi) Burma Mines Railway opened in 1906 operated on a separate 2 ft (610 mm) gauge. In 1884, a new company, The Sittang Valley State Railway, opened a 267-kilometre (166 mi) line along the Sittaung River from Yangon to the town of Toungoo (Taungoo) via Pegu (Bago). After the annexation of Upper Burma following the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885, the Toungoo line was extended to Mandalay in 1889. Following the opening of this section, the Mu Valley State Railway was formed and construction began on a railway line from Sagaing to Myitkyina which connected Mandalay to Shwebo in 1891, to Wuntho in 1893, to Katha in 1895, and to Myitkyina in 1898. Extensions into southern Myanmar began in 1907 with the construction of the Bago-Mottama line. Passengers had to take a ferry over the Thanlwin River (Salween River) to Mawlamyaing.
In 1896, before the completion of the line to Myitkyina, the three companies were combined into the Burma Railway Company as a state owned public undertaking. In 1928, the railway was renamed Burma Railways and, in 1989, with the renaming of the country, it became Myanma Railways.
The Japanese invasion during the Second World War caused considerable damage to the rail network. In 1942, the country had 3,313 km (2,059 mi) (route-km) of metre gauge track, but the Japanese removed about 480 km (298 mi) and, by the end of the war, only 1,085 km (674 mi) (route-km) was operational in four isolated sections. The Japanese were also responsible for the construction of the Thailand - Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, using the labour of Allied prisoners of war, many of whom died in the attempt. The "Death Railway" link with Thailand fell into disuse after the war and the section of this line in Burma was permanently closed.
Attempts at rebuilding the network began in the 1950s following Burmese independence. By 1961 the network extended to 3,020 km (1,877 mi), and then remained constant until the opening of a 36 km (22 mi) line from Kyaukpadaung to Kyini in October 1970. In 1988, there were 487 operational railway stations over a 3,162 km (1,965 mi) long network. Since coming to power in 1988, the military government embarked on a railway construction program and, by 2000 the network had grown to 5,068 km (3,149 mi) (track-km) divided into 11 operating divisions. Between 1994 and 1998, the 160 km (99 mi) Ye-Dawei (Tavoy) railway in peninsular Myanmar was completed. With the construction of the 250 m (270 yd) road/rail bridge across the Ye River in 2003 and the 2.4 km (1.5 mi) Thanlwin Bridge in 2008, the Southern peninsula became fully integrated into the Myanmar's railway network. Also in 2008/9, the Ayeyawady Valley route was extended north along the west bank of the river towards Pakokku in the far north of the country. The 60 km (37 mi) Kyangin-Okshippin (Padang) section of Kyangin-Thayet railway was opened in March 2008 and the 56 km (35 mi) Okshippin-Kamma railway section was opened in March 2009.
In 2016 a tram route opened in Yangon, on a former heavy rail freight route through the city streets. Rolling stock is a three car train purchased second hand from Hiroshima, Japan; it is the first 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge, and a third rail was added to the line to accommodate it.
Main article: List of railway stations in Myanmar
There are 960 active railway stations in Myanmar with Yangon Central and Mandalay Central as the twin anchors of the network. Recently, rail service has been extended along the Taninthayi coast to Mon State and Tanintharyi Region with Mawlamyine station as the southern hub. The railway lines generally run north to south with branches to the east and the west. Most of the routes are single track although large parts of Yangon-Pyay and Yangon-Mandalay routes are double track.
Myanmar's railway network is divided into three broad groups of lines, the lines in Upper Myanmar, those in Lower Myanmar, and the Yangon Circular Railway that serves as Yangon's commuter rail.
|Yangon-Mandalay||Yangon-Bago-Toungoo-Naypyidaw-Thazi-Mandalay||620 kilometres (390 mi)||Express trains skip Bago|
|Yangon-Mawlamyine||Yangon-Bago-Theinzayat-Kyaikhto-Thaton-Mottama-Mawlamyine||296 kilometres (184 mi)|
|Yangon-Bagan||Yangon-Taungoo-Leway-Taungdwingyi-Kyaukpadaung-Bagan||625 kilometres (388 mi)|
|Yangon-Pakokku||Yangon-Taungoo-Leway-Taungdwingyi-Kyaukpadaung-Bagan-Pakokku||652 kilometres (405 mi)|
|Yangon-Aunglan-Bagan||Yangon-Letbadan-Paungde-Aunglan-Kyaukpadaung-Bagan||676 kilometres (420 mi)|
|Yangon-Pyay||Yangon-Pyay||259 kilometres (161 mi)|
|Tanintharyi Line||Mawlamyine-Ye-Dawei||339 kilometres (211 mi)||An extension to Myeik is under construction|
|Mandalay-Myitkyina||Mandalay-Sagaing-Shwebo-Myitkyina||361 kilometres (224 mi)|
|Northern Shan State Railway||Mandalay-Pyinoolwin-Kyaukme-Hsipaw-Lashio||441 kilometres (274 mi)|
|Mandalay-Thazi||Mandalay-Thedaw-Dahuttaw-Hanza-Ywapale-Thazi||500 kilometres (310 mi)|
|Monywa-Pakkoku||Monywa-Khinnu-Mandalay-Pakkoku||729 kilometres (453 mi)|
Main article: Yangon Circular Railway
Yangon Circular Railway is an 81-kilometre (50 mi) 39-station loop system that connects Yangon's downtown, satellite towns and suburban areas. Around 150,000 people use the approximately 300 trains that run around the loop daily.
The Yangon Urban Mass Rapid Transit is due to begin construction of the east–west line from Hlaing Thayar in the west to Parami in the east in 2022, to be complete by 2027. This line is to be further extended east to Togyaung Galay station on the Yangon-Bago intercity rail line.
The following four lines are currently under construction:
In 2005, the Japan Railways Group and other, privately owned, Japanese railway companies donated rolling stock to Myanmar Railways, including former JNR-era DMUs, railcars and passenger coaches. China donated 130 units of meter gauge carriages in 2006 and another 225 in 2009. In early As of 2011, Myanma Railways operated 389 locomotives and 4,673 railway coaches.
In 1999, Myanma Railway had 201 diesel locomotives, and a further 88 were on order. Up to 1987 the main suppliers were Alstom, Krupp and various Japanese companies, but since then orders have been placed with China because of Myanmar's lack of access to hard currency. In 2004, Myanma Railway had approximately 40 oil-fired steam locomotives, of which about a dozen were serviceable and saw occasional use on goods, local passenger and tourist trains. Up to three heavy repairs are performed per year using locally manufactured parts. Between 1988 and 2009, the railway imported 96 diesel locomotives, 55 from China and 41 from India and, by December 2009, it had a total of 319 locomotives. In October 2010, the railway acquired 30 more locomotives from China.
In 2014, Myanma Railway acquired a Hokutosei train set from Japan after the withdrawal of the Hokutosei Blue Train Service in preparation of the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen which opened in 2016. The locomotive acquired was the former DD51 Diesel Locomotive along with the former Blue Trains that were formerly operated by JR Hokkaido.
In March 2018, India handed over 18 diesel-electric locomotives to Myanmar under an Indian line of credit. These 18 locomotives were fitted with the microprocessor control based system. 1350 HP AC/DC main line diesel locomotives with a maximum speed of 100 km/h had been customised for the Myanma Railways. From the Indian side, RITES Ltd., an Indian government enterprise, has been a principal partner of Myanma Railways and was involved in the supply of these 18 locomotives.
In 1999 Myanma Railways had 868 coaches, with a further 463 on order. However many branch lines have only lightly built permanent way, and on these routes traffic is in the hands of a fleet of more than 50 light rail-buses built from lorry parts in MR's workshops. These are powered through their rubber-tired road wheels, and usually haul three small four-wheel coaches converted from goods wagons. Small turntables are used to turn the rail-buses at the termini.
There were 5,187 freight wagons in 1999, with 1,188 due to be delivered. The majority of goods trains on lines without significant gradients run without any train brakes, as most of the serviceable wagons have been cannibalised and now lack vacuum hoses. Goods trains up to 600 tonnes are braked by the locomotive only, and operate at a maximum speed of 32 km/h (19.9 mph). If the train is particularly heavy the wagons at the front will be fitted with hoses for the duration of the trip. On the steeply-graded ghat sections all wagons will be braked.
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