CHILE: President Sebastian Piñera has announced an ambitious US$5bn ‘Chile On Rails’ strategy which includes 25 investment projects covering 1 000 km of railway.

The aim is to triple ridership to 150 million passengers/year by 2027, double freight to more than 21 million tonnes/year and end operator EFE’s long standing operational deficit.

‘The train will not only be part of Chileans’ daily lives as passengers, but will also be part of our country’s economic life’, said Piñera in Melipilla on September 3.

The programme allocates 44% of the planned spending to the capital region, with projects around Santiago to include:

  • the construction of a 61 km Alameda –Melipilla line which is expected to carry 50 million passengers/year;
  • four new trainsets to be acquired in 2021 and four more in 2023 to increase capacity on the Metrotren commuter service to Nos and Rancagua. This carried more than 11 million passengers in the first half of the year, a 26% increase from the same period last year;
  • a 48 km Metrotren route from Santiago to Batuco and Tiltil, which would require the construction of eight new stations and acquisition of eight trains. This is projected to carry 17 million passengers/year.

Regions outside the capital would be allocated 56% of the spending. Investment projects envisaged would include:

  • the purchase of eight trains for Metrotren Rancagua, which has seen a significant growth in ridership;
  • the extension of passenger services from Concepción to Lirquén via Penco;
  • construction of a line between Coronel and Lota, cutting travel times by nearly 1 h to 45 min;
  • extending the passenger service in La Araucanía from Temuco to Padre Las Casas, with studies for a further extension to Gorbe;
  • studies for an extension of the Valparaíso suburban service from Limache to La Calera with five new stations, carrying up to 12 million passengers/year and reducing the La Calera – Valparaíso journey time from 3 h by bus to 1h 20 min by rail;
  • a passenger service between Chillán and Alameda, with ridership predicted at two million/year;
  • modernisation of the Talca –Constitución branch, construction of a depot and acquisition of three trainsets, reducing travel times from 3 h 30 min to 2 h 30 min.
  • studies for inter-regional passenger services connecting the O’Higgins, Maule and Ñuble regions.
  • projects to increase freight capacity on routes serving the ports of San Antonio and Valparaíso.

‘We are making a major effort to allow railway transport to improve the quality of life of our fellow Chileans and to make a major contribution to our country’s development’, Piñera explained.