AS PART OF the US$155m Biovías programme to improve public transport in the greater Concepción area, Chilean State Railways (EFE) launched its Biotrén commuter network on November 24.

EFE has acquired seven Class 440 EMUs from Renfe of Spain for Biotrén, which runs up to 82 trains a day on routes to Talcahuano, Haulqui and Lomas Coloradas.

Infrastructure work has included new signalling, electrification and telecommunications systems, the construction of three new stations and the refurbishment of 13 more. All stations on the Biotrén network have been equipped with turnstiles and contactlesss smartcard ticketing has been introduced; this is to be extended to the rail feeder bus network later this year, followed by other bus services.

The greater Concepción area has a population of 870000, and 70% of households do not have access to a private car. EFE President Luis Ajenjo hopes that Biotrén will eventually be recording 4·8million passenger-journeys a year, and he reported that traffic had already doubled year-on-year when over 5000 passengers were carried on December 4. n