August 13, 2017

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Sky and Underground Trains

Thinking in Advance for Better Tomorrow

Modern sky train in operation
Modern sky train in operation

Traffic woes are grave concern for everybody in Yangon nowadays. Huge amount of energy and valuable time are lost on the road travelling during every working day. Nation, as a result, has lost annually million of man-hours which otherwise would have been contributed to the productivity towards nation building. Arrival of new cars in Yangon and other cities must be welcome. Introduction of new vehicle import policies has benefited many middle class families, who otherwise could not have afforded sky rocket high car prices just 4 years ago. Government has adjusted the car policy several times over the last 3 years to mitigate the congestion of traffic in the big cities particularly in Yangon and Mandalay. Among many regulations in relation to car inputs and production, there should be one rule, very important to the functionality and pollution control [particularly air pollution]in the country. After 15 to 20 years of running, old car engines will produce exhaust gases which will pollute the air in the cities. Old cars are prone to break leading to unnecessary traffic blockage and accidents. So, all vehicles must be scrapped after 15 or 20 years, except those commercial vehicles which the owners want to continue using. They must nevertheless pass very stringent technical tests and licensing procedures and pay for double or triple annual license fees. Then gradually another regulation could as well be introduced that “only brand new vehicles will be imported or assembled or manufactured in the country”. But the latter option could be still some years down the road.  Regardless of whatever car policies are in place, we definitely cannot expect less traffic jams or reduced vehicles on the roads of our cities. Expansion of roads, building of flyovers and bridges will not effectively solve the traffic problem either. There are limited land and space to build new roads in inner city. However, we are not the only country in the world facing traffic woes. Then we need to learn other countries experience as to how they have solved the traffic problems. Some have been very successful in solving traffic congestion and other only to a certain degree. But there has been one common approach in solving traffic problem which is building of sky and underground “rapid” train systems or Mass Rapid Transit system in the cities London is an exemplary city which introduced underground electric train in 1863, more than 150 years ago. The London underground train system (also known as the Tube) is the first underground rapid transit system in the world. Now London rapid transit system is serving 270 stations with a rail track of 250 miles in length (with 52% above ground) and in 2012-13 carried 1.23 billion passengers. New York City Subway is also a mass rapid transit train system which was opened in 1904 and now the world largest transit system with 468 stations. It serves 5.5 million passengers every week day. Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) was built relatively recently, in 1987. SMRT is the second oldest mass rapid transit system in South East Asia, after Manila Light Rail Transit system, which was opened in 1984. SMRT daily transported 2.755 million passengers in 2013.  Apart from underground rail tracks inside the congested downtown areas, SMRT operation is above ground [sky train] in other parts of Singapore.
Sky train is the elevated railroad system to transport mass passengers rapidly above the motor ways where the cars are travelling. The train runs on the separate rail tracks elevated by concrete columns and serves the railway stations which are also elevated and commuters can access by climbing manual stairs or by electrically operated escalators. Sky trains are used for rapid transport of passengers in many cities such as Vancouver in Canada, Shainghai in China and Bangkok in Thailand.
In Yangon and perhaps in Mandalay too, we have to have sky and underground mass rapid transit trains rather sooner than later. It is costly to invest initially but unavoidable for efficient city transport. We are sure that the Government has plans in the pipe line, to build underground and sky mass rapid transport systems in our cities. Several international multi-lateral bodies and technology companies would undoubtedly be involved with relevant Government agencies in the process of feasibility studies, EIA, SIA, planning, funding and implementing. Citizens are aspiring with burning desire to overcome the traffic woes which they face daily now. In not so distant future, our citizens will enjoy travelling quickly to their works, schools, businesses and loved ones and will be relieved of worries associated with traffic jam in the cities, should we have rapid underground and sky train systems.
References:
1.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkyTrain_%28Vancouver%29
2.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Underground

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