Yangon’s CIRCLE LINE

national May 22, 2017 19:00

By SAYAN CHUENUDOMSAVAD
SPECIAL FOR THE SUNDAY NATION

AT Yangon Central Railway Station, steel wheels of the Circle Line Train spin on the rusty tracks, as the train departs on a 46-kilometre journey.



Despite the circular route through 39 stations, the trip only takes passengers about three hours. A countless number of passengers get on and get off, leaving different stories and memories behind. 

Up to 150,000 people ride on Circle Line Trains every day. In fact, the trains go both clockwise – west via Insein, then north to Mingaladon near the airport and back down – or anti-clockwise, via Okkalapa in the east then back via the western side. 

The Yangon Circle Line was part of an idea to connect city dwellers together as city, formerly known as Rangoon, grew. And as the city developed, it has become more and more popular, especially among low-income commuters – its cheap prices have made it a prime form of public transport for ordinary citizens. 

The central station has also become a hub for short and long-term residents, who take over some space to live.

By day, the train and the station are crowded with passengers; mobile snack sellers and food traders exchange words while bargaining for cheaper food. 

By night, some people, the homeless included, lay out a mat to spend the night on the station’s floors. Life continues as the trains run around the loop. 

But as the country has emerges from the dark days of dictatorship, Myanmar is rejuvenated with ambition for its rail links, which date back to the colonial era. Around 1880 the British discussed building a first railway route to connect Moulmein to Phitsanulok in northern Thailand. 

Now, Yangon Central Railway Station is set to be renovated more than 70 years after it was built. The 46-kilometre Circle Line connects people in its biggest city. But the country’s new government plans to reconnect with its neighbours, including Thailand. 

Myanmar’s democratically elected government is discussing 5,000 kilometres of railway lines to connect its people with the outside world, including a route from the special economic zone being built in Dawei, in the south, to Kanchanaburi in western Thailand.