TENDERING IS DUE to start this month for the first upgrading projects that Colombia's Ministry of Transport is undertaking under a U$600m investment programme. According to Miguel Bonilla who heads the Rail Group at national concessions agency INCO, the aim is to award contracts in the first half of 2008 for work on the Neiva – Villavieja and 177 km Ibagué – La Dorada sections of the Atlantic network.

Subsequent phases would see the Sogamoso – Tunja and Puerto Berrío – Cisneros sections upgraded, which INCO believes would have potential to attract tourist traffic. A $150m package including Facatativa – Belencito and La Caro – Lenguazaque would enable more coal and petroleum products to move by rail, also serving the Paz del Río steelworks at Belencito.

Studies are continuing for a new line between Puerto Berrío and Saboya, expected to cost $350m to build, and for 70 km of new infrastructure joining the Atlantic main line at Opón which would serve small coal producers in the Santander region. This is expected to cost $90m to build. To handle up to 80 million tonnes of coal a year, the 220 km between Chiriguaná and the port of Santa Marta is being doubled at a cost of $360m under the Atlantic concession awarded to Fenoco.