Passenger figure decreases, but highway bus service goes on

16 September 2020                     

Highway bus lines are facing drawbacks to lack of passengers amid the Covid-19 resurgence period and are focusing on the transportation of commodities to help ensure smooth and secure flow of the goods.

As the preventive and control measures of the Covid-19 virus is the first priority amid the resurgence period. All region and state governments are now conducting the virus protection measures in their respective regions and states by giving instructions to the people to follow the rules, regulations and directives. The directives include a time-limited curfew and checking and restriction on the entrance and exit of the highway buses. Although the Yangon Region Government doesn’t issue an announcement to stop all highway bus lines, some of highway bus lines have ceased their operation currently.

U Ba Myint, In-charge of Highway Department of Yangon Region Transport Authority, said, “Our bus lines are depending on the passengers. But we have got no passengers now as 44 townships within Yangon region are under stay-at-home order, so the numbers of passengers are decreasing relatively except some passengers who are in urgent occasions to travel. We are running our buses for those who are in need to go travel. According to the records from 3 p.m. yesterday, we were running 100 buses and we had 200 to 250 buses running totally in Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Terminal and we got less than 1,500 passengers. In the past, 500 or 600 buses were running and we had more than 30,000 passengers, People are staying at home as they are afraid of being under quarantine when they travel to somewhere. So, it is quite sure that the number of passengers will be decreasing more and more”.

For the time being, the YRTA had already given instructions to all of the people who are in need of travelling to follow the health rules issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports. There are still only few passengers who are travelling to the regions which are not under quarantine.

U Thein Sein, Minmagaing Gate In-charge of Yangon-Shwegyin Passenger Bus Line, said, “For the time being, there’s neither passenger nor the freight. Usually, 7 buses run from our gate. Until now, there are only 2 buses. Among them, one can make it to Yangon as it runs in the morning. The other has to go back as Zayetkwin is closed. The other buses cannot run anymore. We will have to go for quarantine if we are coming from Shwegyin and we do not have any recommendations or ID cards. For now, we do not sell tickets though there are passengers. The cars have to run only with the freight. Starting from this evening, we do not know if we would accept the freights for the next day morning. So we do not get any passengers or the freights to accept. There are 7 buses and they are running one by one. So, we do not sell the tickets in advance. We accept the freights but we do not know how to proceed. We are informed whether we could pass Zayetkwin and come back or not.”

During September, according to the data of YRTA based on the Yangon region, the buses to other regions and states do not have regular running time, but there is an average of 100 to 200 buses per day which are running for the commodity flows. The highway bus lines have been instructed to transport the passengers in line with the social distancing measures, said YRTA.

U Thein Swe, In-charge of Kyaw Hlwar Advanced Passenger Transport Service, said, “We totally stopped in the earlier period of COVID-19. And then we restarted to run in the recovery period but now in this resurgence period, we stop transporting the passengers. We will accept the freights and we will be running with what we have and the other buses from Muse will be back in the same way. In the morning of September 11, we were informed that everything is suspended and so do we. And we will be running back depending on the conditions. There are almost no passengers and we are not selling the tickets to them anymore. We are not transporting passengers because we cannot tell if they are infected or not. The passengers have to have the health certificate and ward recommendation letters and yet most of them do not have. Some do not even have the ID cards. So, we stop transporting passenger as both the passengers and we can be in trouble. The passenger number becomes fewer in 20 days since the start of the resurgence of COVID-19.”

Usually there are 116 bus lines and 1,438 buses running in Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Terminal and there are 147 bus lines and 1,174 buses are running to the other states and regions. However, the numbers of buses are becoming fewer as they get no passenger due to the resurgence of COVID-19.

The transport service entrepreneurs are excepting that running of the bus lines will return to normal only when this pandemic is largely under control in the country.

Pyay Thein, Min Tun (Oakkyin), Soe Min Aung and Ye Naing (Laukkai)