By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — Yangon’s transport authority will introduce a card payment system on city buses within six months, after an earlier aborted effort, chief minister U Phyo Min Thein said on Wednesday, as the government seeks to improve fare collection rates.
At a lavish ceremony to celebrate the second anniversary of the Yangon Bus Service, the chief minister admitted that YBS had faced “challenges” during its launch. Passengers had queued for hours at peak times due to a shortage of buses, and drivers frequently ran out of change, so that passengers either overpaid, or refused to pay, their fares.
Since then, however, the service has improved, and Phyo Min Thein said a solution to the cash problem was imminent, with the introduction of a card payment system by Asia Starmar Transport Intelligent Co. Ltd. The company won a tender to implement the system last year, after the government cancelled an earlier contract with Excel KC Myanmar Company.
Asia Starmar Transport Intelligent’s chief marketing officer Daw Yi Yi Khin, who spoke at the event, proposed a longer timeline for the introduction of the cashless system, saying it would be rolled out across the city within nine months, with a pilot project to launch in downtown Yangon in the coming months.
She said the company would use Myanmar Payment Union cards that would be available for sale in Grab & Go and ABC shops and other licensed retailers. Users would be able to link these to their bank accounts, or to top them up with cash. Even after the introduction of the cards, bus lines would still accept cash payments, she said.
At Wednesday’s event, Yangon Region Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transportation Daw Nilar Kyaw, who also chairs the Yangon Region Transport Authority, said the new payment system would be fully operational within one year.
Of Yangon Region’s seven million residents, she said, about 2.4 million rely on YBS for their daily commute.
“As the city lacks a sky train or subway, we are trying to improve YBS more and more,” she said, adding that all passengers should pay their fares if they want a better service.
The card system would reduce the burden on both passengers and bus lines, she said.