THIS MONTH is due to see the start of work on the renovation of Colombia’s Pacific rail network, serving the port of Buenaventura. The work is being done by a consortium of four local engineering firms, with Rites of India. Rites stepped in to replace the Spanish engineering firm Sacyr, which pulled out last year, leading to a year’s delay in finalising the 30-year concession (RG 10.98 p629).

The government will provide US$120m over four years to rehabilitate the initial 350 km from Buenaventura to Cali, Palmira and Cartago in the central Cauca valley, plus the 40 km branch from Zarzal to La Tebaida. It has still not been agreed whether the concessionaires will tackle the remaining 150 km from Cartago to La Felisa, which has been extensively damaged by flooding.

The state money will bring the 914mm gauge line up to minimum operating standards, after which the consortium is expected to invest a further US$300m, including relaying the main line with 45 kg/m rails, especially on the steeper grades. Around one-third of the sleepers will be replaced in concrete. In an effort to get some services running as quickly as possible, work is likely to start on the flat corridor through the Cauca valley, followed by the link across the Andes from Cali to Buenaventura. n