China-backed Railway Projects Gain Momentum in Chile and Argentina

Presidents Sebastián Piñera and Alberto Fernández agreed in January to promote a Southern Trans-Andean Railway system.

The government of Chile Tuesday unveiled 15 brand new railway units made in China, with which the South American country intends to revamp its train service both for passengers and cargo.

The machinery was received during February and March in separate shipments and was now put together for display by the administration of President Sebastián Piñera.

The announcement came one week after an Argentine consortium FCUP, which largely favours a bioceanic railway network, appointed a new board of directors. Sustainable train service is also required is Vaca Muerta is to become profitable.

The Chilean trains, worth 87 million US dollars according to the Chinese Xinhua news agency, is expected to benefit 1.2 million passengers.

Chile’s Transport and Telecommunications Minister Gloria Hutt said the state-of-the-art trains will operate on the Biotren, Corto Laja and Victoria-Temuco lines in southern Chile’s Biobio and La Araucania regions, doubling the current speed of train travel and offering “a very high standard for moving people.”

Meanwhile, the Unión Pacífico Railway Consortium (FCUP), which plans to reactivate 1,400 km of railways of the old General Sarmiento line with an investment of $ 2,300 million US dollars, chose Walther Marcolini -mayor of the city of General Alvear in the Argentine province of Mendoza- to become its new CEO. Other officials of places along the train’s existing -yet abandoned- line were appointed to the board.

”We continue to advance with the agreement with the UTE China Argentina. It is hard work that takes about two years. What is new for this type of business is that UTE (which is made up of the Chinese companies China Railway 17 TH Bureau Group Co. Ltd, China Energy Power Design Institute Co. Ltd and the Argentine company Energía Patagónica S.A.) provides the consortium and the development of our country with the possibility of executing the work and obtaining the necessary financing for it,” said Alejandro Orlando, General Manager of the FCUP Consortium and Secretary-General of the Economic Federation of Mendoza.

The main goal is to promote the railway corridor through a bimodal system (truck + train) that crosses the 33rd parallel and links the Atlantic coast of Argentina with the Pacific Ocean ports of Chile, where Chinese endorsement of this kind of endeavours also runs high.

In September 2019, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera launched the “Chile on track,” program, a plan to invest more than 5 billion dollars to modernize the country’s rail network. And Chile’s State Railway company chairman Pedro Pablo Errazuriz, Tuesday praised the “powerful work” of the CRRC Sifang-Temoinsa consortium, saying the quality was “foolproof.” The consortium comprising Chinese company CRRC Sifang and Chilean firm Temoinsa won the tenders to build new trains for Biobio and La Araucania in 2018 and 2019.

The FCUP project also foresees collateral developments of each regional economy, since the agreement with UTE allows for possible additional Chinese investments in this regard.

Piñera and Argentine President Alberto Fernández have reportedly signed earlier this year an agreement to promote the Southern Trans-Andean Railway network.

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