ARGENTINA: On July 21 President Cristina Fernández inaugurated by video link the Tren del Valle, a new service connecting the city of Neuquén with Cipolletti in Río Negro province. The first passenger services on this route for 22 years are operated with two DMUs purchased from Materfer for 20m pesos.

Featuring 90% domestic content, the two-car DMUs are powered by 400 hp Scania engines. Each air-conditioned trainset has 140 seats.

Restoration of passenger services to the Neuquén – Cipolletti route has also involved a programme of station refurbishment, track renewals and reinforcing a bridge over the River Neuquén at a cost of 500000 pesos. Additional staff have been recruited to supervise level crossings 24 h a day, according to the federal government. The 55 km route has 10 level crossings, of which two have manually-operated barriers and five are ungated.

The national SUBE smart card is valid for travel on the new service, and the government reports that 3 000 cards have been sold at Neuquén and Cipolletti stations. Over 100 000 pesos worth of journeys had been charged onto cards up to July 20, representing some 25 000 trips paid for in advance.