It has now been over two years since train routes in Upper Burma have ceased services. The Mandalay to Shwebo, Mandalay to Khin-U, and Mandalay to Myitkyina lines have been shut down since the 2021 military coup. The Myanma Railways staff in Upper Burma joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and the military has not been able to restart the train routes from Mandalay heading north to Sagaing Region and Kachin State, because some of these areas under the control of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
“The train can be run only if the stations along the route are operating. And it is not like other departments. The first reason for these train routes being unable to run is the railway employees in Kachin state are participating in the CDM,” a Myanma Railways station master in upper Burma told DVB on the condition of anonymity. Because the train routes from Mandalay to Kachin State are not operational, travellers must rely solely on road transportation. Locals claim that the road conditions are okay. According to bus companies operating along these routes, Mandalay to Myitkyina and Myitkyina to Yangon are still operating, but military checkpoints have been set up along the highways to inspect all passengers.
“The prices for bus tickets [have more than doubled] depending on the types of ticket,” said a Mandalay resident. There are a total of 76 bus stations, which is where stops are made for passengers to disembark, from Mandalay to Myitkyina. Fifty-five are in Sagaing Region and 21 are in Kachin State. Previously, there were eight direct train routes operating from Mandalay to Myitkyina and thousands of passengers took those routes on a daily basis. The junta plans to appoint new railway employees to replace striking CDM workers. But they have yet to do so.
“Passenger trains as well as freight trains are not operating. It can’t be possible to operate trains [after the military coup],” said another Myanma Railways station master in Upper Burma on the condition of anonymity. Prior to the coup, Myanma Railways had a total of 156 long-distance trains, including 40 high-speed passenger trains, 52 mail trains, 48 freight trains, 16 short-distance trains. Twenty-one trains circle Yangon 160 times per day. The junta has not been able to effectively operate Myanma Railways since staff joined the CDM in an effort to reverse the coup and re-establish democracy in Burma.