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Myanmar opens bidding for new Yangon-Mandalay rail cars

Long-neglected infrastructure finally getting some love

Myanmar has embarked on an upgrade of its rail system.

YANGON -- Myanma Railways announced Friday that bidding has opened for train cars for upgrades to the railway linking the nation's two largest cities of Yangon and Mandalay.

The state-owned railway network operator seeks to acquire 24 carriages. The country's rail network is not electrified, so Myanma Railways wants diesel-electric-type units. Bidding will close in March 2017, with a decision coming later that year.

The carriages will be paid for from roughly 45 billion yen ($391 million) in official development assistance that Japan has said it would provide to the Southeast Asian nation.

Myanma Railways is in the middle of a vast project to upgrade the Yangon-Mandalay line by adding new cars as well as repairing and upgrading track and railway signaling systems. The total cost of the project will reach into the billions of dollars.

Japanese general contractors and manufacturers of rolling stock are keenly interested. Hitachi and trading house Mitsubishi Corp. won an order in May 2015 to install signaling systems on part of the line.

Development in Myanmar was neglected under military rule, and the rail system has deteriorated. With its aged infrastructure, rail travel is slow and accident-prone.

Now, under the de facto leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation has begun investing in its public transportation infrastructure.

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