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Friday, December 19, 2014
Burma

New Rangoon-Naypyidaw Highway a Lonely, Risky Drive


By HEIN ZAW Wednesday, June 10, 2009


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The newly opened eight-lane highway linking the former capital, Rangoon, and the new capital, Naypyidaw, is clean and efficient, but few travelers use the highway because of its isolation and the difficulty of getting assistance if in need of help, drivers say.

Travelers can save time, but drivers must have great confidence in their vehicles because of the scarcity of help through the isolated countryside.

The newly opened eight-lane Rangoon-Naypyidaw highway.
To drive between Rangoon and Naypyidaw on the new highway takes about 4 hours; the old highway takes about 7 hours. The new highway is about 355 kilometers long (221 miles).

The government charges a toll fee for the use of the new Rangoon-Naypyidaw highway, collected in two stages: the first toll fee between the end of No 3 Highway and Phyu Town is 2,500 kyat (US $2.34) for vehicles below 1 ton; the second fee between Phyu Town and Naypyidaw is also 2,500 kyat. For vehicles from 1 to 3 tons; the fee is 5,000 kyat ($4.67); from 3 to 10 tons, the fee is 12,500 kyat ($11.68).

Drivers say the new highway is hard on tires.

“The concrete road [without paving tar] makes car tires wear out faster,” said a driver from Rangoon’s Aung Mingalar transportation terminal. “Also, it’s difficult to find water if the car heats up too much.”

“If a tire blows up, and you didn’t have an extra tire, you must sleep overnight on the road because there are few repair places along the highway,” he said.

The Rangoon-Naypyidaw highway is the first part of a new eight-lane highway between Rangoon and Mandalay, in central Burma.

The new highway was built by the Directorate of Military Engineers and the department for Public Works of the Ministry of Construction.

Early drivers recall tales of encountering wild elephants.

A driver from a government department said: “When I drive at night, it’s so dark you can’t see the road. I was afraid of both wild elephants and land minds.”

“As soon as the highway was opened, I travelled by Parami bus along the highway,” said a government official. “Crossing the Pegu Yoma [mountain], I noticed few shops. Some construction workers died during the road building because of the wild elephants that crossed the road in a group.”

The highway has few places where travelers can access a public telephone, and cell phones are mostly out of reach of transmission antennas.

Reportedly, few government vehicles use the road. Most private transportation companies use the old highway although the government-run Taw Win bus service transports about 1,000 passengers daily on the new highway using a fleet of about 20 buses.

Only passenger buses and small cars are allowed on the new highway. Construction on the highway started in October 2005, and the first section to Naypyidaw opened in March 2009.

State-run newspapers have reported that three car rest camps will be built near Phyu, Naypyidaw and Meikhtilar.

The old Rangoon-Mandalay highway is a tar-covered road about 662.9 kilometers (412 miles) long. Many rest camps and car repair shop are located in the more than 20 towns between the two cities.

Six road construction companies, including Max Myanmar, which has close ties to junta, officials, are allowed to collect toll fees along the old Rangoon-Mandalay highway.

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