The preliminary work for the Mandalay Muse Rail Project, which is among the projects under China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), will start next year, a senior Mandalay Finance Official said.

U Myat Thu, Mandalay Minister for Planning & Finance, said the Rail Project is among the nine “essential projects” that China proposes to implement as part of the China – Myanmar Economic Corridor. He hinted that the memorandum of understanding for the project will be signed soon.

Government officials revealed that a feasibility survey by Myanmar Railway and China Railway Ervuan Engineering Co Ltd for the proposed main route for the project started earlier this week.

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The government is planning to conduct consultations to discuss issues related to land compensation and job opportunities once the construction starts. The railway line is expected to be 431 kilometres long and will feature a significant number of bridges and tunnels, according to Myanmar Railways.

The state-run rail company said the railway will have seven cargo and passenger stations; five passenger-only stations and 24 junctions. The railway line will use electric trains that can run at speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour.

After the feasibility study is completed, an official tender will be called for the building of the railroad. Contractors will be required to hire 75 percent of their total workforce from the local population in order to create job opportunities.

U Myint Kyi a member of a sub-province merchants association in Yunnan Province said that the region will stand to enjoy the benefits from China’s BRI projects, particularly the Mandalay-Muse rail project.

“If Myanmar can skill fully handle that situation, the Belt and Road Initiative can become a game changer, U Hla Soe Nyunt, Chair of Political Science Alumni of Mandalay University said.