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The British-built Circle Line began operations in 1959 and currently serves over 20,000 passengers each day.<br />
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The sometimes achingly slow three-hour train ride passes through 39 stations, connecting satellite towns and suburban areas to the city of Yangon.<br />
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Objectively, the Circle Line train cars are far from comfortable with unaccommodating chairs, bad suspension, and open-air compartments that expose riders to rain, insects, and sometimes sweltering heat.<br />
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However, despite all these apparent discomforts, the Circle Line Train is a fantastic way to connect in close quarters with the exceptionally friendly and open Burmese people -- always ready to offer their seat to a stranger in need -- a large sign is mounted in every car proclaiming: "Warmly welcome and take care of tourists."<br />
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And because the Circle Line train offers the region's cheapest daily commuting option, it offers even the lowest level of Burmese wage earners affordable transportation to their jobs in Yangon.<br />
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But now this traditional ambiance and affordable access to travel is threatened by change.<br />
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The Yangon Circular Railway is owned and operated by the Burmese government and has been running at a substantial daily loss -- an economically unsustainable proposition.<br />
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The government plans to replace all of the antiquated train cars with ultra-modern versions from Japan, featuring fully-enclosed compartments and air conditioning.<br />
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While the enhanced comfort of such modern conveniences seems obviously preferable, much of value stands to be lost.<br />
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The climate of an enclosed and air-conditioned train with better seats may be more objectively comfortable, but the outside world will now be more distanced from the rider and the easy flow of social connection will be disrupted -- passengers' heads, arms, and legs will no longer freely protrude from open car windows and connect with the communal air.<br />
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And how will the Circle Line's most economically challenged daily commuters be able afford the increased trans