22 Oct 18 - Myanmar Times - Since its launch on October 7, last year, the Yangon Water Bus (YWB) has been able to cover the bulk of its costs and could break even sooner than expected, said Daw Tint Tint Lwin, chair of Tint Tint Myanmar Co, which operates the river transport service.
"We had originally estimated that it would take around two years for us to break even. But we were able to cover the cost of fuel, salaries and maintenance after just six months," she told The Myanmar Times during the first anniversary celebration of the YWB yesterday.
The company expects YWB to be profitable after the opening of another two routes within the coming quarters.
"After we expand our services across more routes, we should be able to turn a profit earlier than expected," Daw Tint Tint Lwin said, adding that losses at YWB, which totalled K600 million during the first six months of operations, have since narrowed by about a third as passenger volumes swelled to over 8000 from just 2000.
Unlike the Yangon Bus Service (YBS), which is funded by the regional government, the YWB is privately run. The entire project is scheduled to be implemented in three phases. The first phase, which commenced last October, includes the river route linking Botahtaung Jetty to Insein Township. Each passenger is charged a K300 fare.
Over the longer term though, Daw Tint Tint Lwin said support from YBS is needed for the Botahtaung-Insein route to be sustainable. This is because the distance from the jetty to the nearest bus stop in Insein township is too far for passengers to walk and many are reluctant to foot the taxi or trishaw fare to travel the distance.
The regional government implemented the water bus system with the goal of reducing the traffic congestion and to reduce the waiting time for buses. In reality, the commuters from Insein Township do not find it convenient to take the water bus now because the jetty and the bus stops are a little far apart and the commuters don't want to walk there.
They don't want to pay extra money to take motorbike taxis or trishaws to reach the jetty.
"If we run only from Botahtaung to Insein we will definitely lose money. We are asking the YBS to help us by providing a bus service between the Insein jetty and nearest bus station," Daw Tint Tint Lwin said.
"If YBS can connect to the jetty, about 1 million additional passengers will use the water way," she said. Currently, Tint Tint Myanmar Co is running a temporary shuttle bus service between the jetty and bus stop as an added service for YWB commuters.
U Myint Thaung, regional minister for planning and finance, said the government is making plans to provide a YBS connecting service.
"It is the right move as passengers can easily take the YBS. We are already discussing a connecting service," he said.
In the meantime, to narrow its losses, besides regular transportation, the YWB is also providing supplementary day trips to Twante Township and Thanlyin Township on the weekends. The fares are K6000 per person for a trip to Thanlyin and K7000 to Twante. There is also a Yangon River sunset cruise for K3000. Meanwhile, 24-hour convenience stores and food courts have been opened at the jetties.
By next month, new river routes extending to Hlaing Tharyar, Shwe Pyi Thar, and Sategyi Khanaungto townships as well as Kyee Myin Daing and Thanlyin will open.
"We are targeting foreigners and residents from the Star City condominium in Thanlyin who otherwise have to take at least two or three hours to reach downtown Yangon by car or bus. If they use the water way, it will take only 25 or 30 minutes," Daw Tint Tint Lwin said.
There are now 11 water buses running 30 times a day. On week days, there are typically 4000 to 6000 passengers and over 10,000 passengers during weekends and public holidays.
The YWB is also slated to be part of the Yangon Payment Service (YPS) prepaid card system, which is in the works but has yet to be implemented by the regional government.
However, Tint Tint Myanmar Co will start its own card payment system from Hungary should the YPS fail to start within the month.