MYANMAR: The national parliament in Naypyitaw has approved government plans to purchase new rolling stock for Myanma Railways’ principal Yangon – Mandalay services using funding from China.

The Ministry of Transport & Communications intends to procure 14 standard and 14 first class vehicles for the route, which carries more than 1 000 passengers/day. Transport Minister U Thant Zin Maung said the new stock would improve safety and provide greater convenience for travellers, as well as increasing revenue from the current average of 3m kyats per day.

The new stock is to be funded by an interest-free loan of 18·5bn kyats from China. The 80m yuan package would be disbursed over five years, with repayment in 10 instalments after a five year grace period.

When the proposal was debated in the lower house of parliament, concern was expressed that the procurement had not been put out to tender. Insisting that the vehicles should be new, and not refurbished second-hand stock, Oktwin MP Daw Cho Cho urged ministry officials to scrutinise the proposal carefully. ‘Though the loan is interest-free, we are obliged to purchase the carriages from the lender’, he pointed out. ‘So it is important that the products are of good quality, reasonably priced, and will not cost us far more than similar products from other countries.’