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Argentina opens bidding to buy $2 bln of railcars for Buenos Aires

Sept 27 (Reuters) - Argentina launched a global auction to buy 1,500 electric rail cars to improve the Buenos Aires metropolitan area transit system, the Transportation Ministry said on Wednesday, in a project that has drawn interest from major engineering firms.

The Ministry said in a statement it expects to invest $2 billion in the cars, which will more than double the size of the current fleet of 1,346 cars. The purchase is part of a $14 billion plan to renovate the transit system for the city and its surrounding suburbs, home to some 13 million people, by 2023.

The Ministry will accept bids through Nov. 14, a spokeswoman told Reuters. At least 20 percent of the rail cars' components must be manufactured nationally, the Ministry said.

Since taking office in December 2015, President Mauricio Macri has launched a major public works push to help boost Latin America's No. 3 economy and rebuild its infrastructure after a decade of populist rule.

The plan also includes the $16 billion 'Plan Belgrano' to improve freight and passenger connections to the country's poor, remote northern provinces and a $40 billion plan to improve water infrastructure and avoid flooding on the key Pampas grains belt, a portion of which will be financed privately.

Earlier this year, more than a dozen global engineering firms including Germany's Siemens AG, Canada's Bombardier Inc, China's CRRC Corp Ltd and France's Alstom SA attended an information session on the Buenos Aires rail cars, the Ministry said at the time.

Japan's ambassador to Argentina later told Reuters several of the country's leading trading companies, including Marubeni Corp and Mitsui & Co Ltd were interested in the project and could submit bids as a consortium. (Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by James Dalgleish)