The Yangon to Mandalay expressway, which shortcuts to the capital Nay Pyi Taw, does meet international standards, according to Deputy Minister of Construction Soe Tint.

The deputy minister was holding a press conference at the Ministry of Rail Transportation on Thursday in the wake of the Yar Zar Min bus tragedy that killed 14 people and injuring 27 others on Monday.

“Eight lanes are needed to complete a highway. Although the road was opened, it does not live up to international standards. We intended to open it early for the convenience of travellers. We are still processing it to complete with the characteristics of a highway,” said the deputy minister.

Known locally as ‘death highway’ the 366-mile concrete road was built in 2009 under the former military junta as a short cut to Myanmar’s new capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

Those involved in the road’s construction have admitted that few road safety measures were put in place as the road had to be completed quickly on orders of military commanders.

The Yar Zar Min bus was the latest deadly accident on the highway that has so far seen 62 deaths and 286 injured this year alone.

“When constructing this express road, there were limitations in finances and technology. It was constructed due to urgent needs. I understand that the road lacks quality. But the government has changed. We couldn’t repair this road using lots of money. According to the present government, we need so many steps to get financial assistance,” said Minister for Rail Transportation Than Htay.

The highway cost nearly US$1 billion to build and has been in operation for five years. Some parts of the road are lower than others and it has yet to be paved with tarmac.

The Deputy Minister Soe Tint explained that the highway will be expanded to include to eight fully-paved lanes and the government is currently asking for technical help and funding from other countries.

A concrete road also poses dangers for cars as it has a rough surface that can wear down tyres more than tarmac, the deputy minister admitted when asked by reporters about the safety of the road.

Up to 186 road accidents happened on the expressway in the period from April 1 to May 14 this year. However, the government has been quick to explain the causes as the fault of drivers due to over speeding, drowsiness and bad weather.

“The highway is eight-hour drive from Yangon to Mandalay but some drivers reach to Mandalay in only seven hours. Although the speed limit is 100 kilometres per hour, the drivers broke the speed limit. The drivers need to follow safely rules,” Soe Tint said.

He added that the government has put up road safety signs along the highway and plans to put up more.
Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut replied on his Facebook page to an editorial written by the Daily Eleven criticising the current condition of the expressway.

“People will see the road is being maintained in some places. But in my opinion, one should not blame on the express road alone. And some writings that appeared to be inappropriate should not be used,” he said.

According to statistics, there has been 432 car accidents from March 2009 to April 2013, leaving 216 dead and 678 wounded.

From January to April 22, 2014, there have been 115 car accidents on the expressway resulting in 62 deaths and 286 injured.