04 May 18 - The success of Yangon Water Bus solely rests on whether the public uses it, said U Maung Aung, secretary of the Yangon Region Transport Authority Group (YRTA).
The first phase of the implementation of Yangon Water Bus started on October 7. It is operated by Tint Tint Myanmar Company following a three-month delay due to administrative obstacles. The Yangon Regional government hoped that the water bus would reduce Yangon's traffic congestion.
"We have been trying to implement water transportation since the early period of the new government. We decided to first operate in the Yangon River after analysing the area's needs. But the development of water buses does not solely rest on our wishes," said Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein.
Almost eight months after inauguration of the water bus, it is operating normally and satisfactorily, according to the company.
"The Yangon Water Bus system is a new model of transportation in Yangon. We believe that customers will use it increasingly. Everybody is interested in the water bus and it is part of the image of Yangon," said U Maung Aung.
However, Yangon Water Bus has not yet had a clear impact on reducing traffic congestion. If the operation develops and expands, it will have an impact, but it still depends on commuters' perception of the new mode of transportation, he added.
At first, Tint Tint Myanmar intended to run 16 ships, but for now, the company is only operating seven locally-made ships and two catamarans at peak hours.
In the beginning, most passengers were interested in the water bus, assuming it would result in faster commuting. However, only a fixed number of regular customers are regularly taking it from Insein to Botahtaung jetty.
Initially, the head of Tint Tint Myanmar, Daw Tint Tint Lwin, said the boats would operate from 6:30am to 6:30pm and the journey would take 30 to 45 minutes.
According to the new schedule starting May 1, ships are running three times in the morning (7:30, 8:30, 9:30am) and evening (3:30, 4:30, 5:45pm), from Botahtaung jetty and Insein Jetty. In the afternoon, only one boat operates at 2:30pm. The company amended the schedule several times to meet commuter demand.
"Commuters think that the water bus takes too long because the ships stop at six jetties along the journey. On the other hand, passenger buses pause at many stops that are close to one another. Yet, passengers think that buses are faster than ships. Actually, there is not much difference in travel time between ships and buses," said an official at Tint Tint Myanmar.
It takes from 45 minutes to about 1 hour and 30 minutes to travel from Insein to Botahtaung township, with stops at seven jetties along the route.
The government pledged to provide YBS buses to the jetties, but it has not done so yet, and some riders have difficulties reaching the jetties.
"We provided the buses to reach the jetties, but later, Tint Tint Myanmar changed the jetties where the water buses stop, which created complications to coordinate with the buses. But we are trying to provide bus service to jetties, and we will check again," said U Maung Aung.
Besides regular transportation, supplementary itineraries are arranged to reach Thanlyin and Twante townships on weekends. It costs K6000 per person for a trip to Thanlyin and K7000 to Twante. The cruise on Yangon River at sunset costs K3000.
"During office hours, about 100 to 120 people commute on one ship. We are satisfied with the situation," Ko Ngwe Phyo Paing, spokesperson of Tint Tint Myanmar.
"We plan to add new routes and will announce them soon," he added.
Phase one is running from Botahtaung jetty to Insein township, and tickets cost K300 each. The company has arranged to provide enough life jackets for all passengers as well as passenger insurance from IKBZ.
The estimated cost of the project was US$20 million to $37 million, and the company runs the operation on its own budget and with a loan from KBZ Bank.
Source: The Myanmar Times