Chile's US$1.6bn high-speed train faces uncertainty

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Monday, May 28, 2018

A high-speed train planned between Chile's capital Santiago and the port city of Valparaíso has created skepticism because consortium TVS presented the US$1.6bn project through the country's railway law instead of the concessions system.

Last week, as the transport ministry labeled the train as of "high interest," TVS CEO Álvaro González claimed the railway law offers a speedier alternative for execution.

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Later, CEO of TVS member Sigdo Koppers, Juan Eduardo Errázuriz, told daily El Mercurio that project execution under the concessions model could take up to 12 years, while the railway law would shorten this time to four or five years.

In response, public works minister Juan Andrés Fontaine told the same daily on Sunday that "there must be very powerful reasons for not using the MOP's (public works ministry) concessions law, under which concessions for over US$20bn have been executed across 80 contracts."

In a similar line, transport minister Gloria Hutt, whose office is in charge of projects presented through the railways law, said on Monday that "there isn't much doubt over the project's necessity. The execution and the mechanism to do it are being studied. We have requested more information and I wouldn't be able to say which option is more convenient."

The proposed railway would have four stations and include 8.55km of tunnels. It would also connect to national freight networks, reaching the port city of San Antonio or Nos station on the outskirts of Santiago.

TRANSANTIAGO

During her annual address about the state of the ministry, Hutt also referred to public transportation in general, saying that the current government prioritizes "good service quality, for rail lines or Metro, and bus transport through exclusive lanes."

Referring to current initiatives, the minister said the tender to renovate the operators of over half of the routes of Santiago's bus system, which was halted when the current administration took office, will be relaunched by the end of this year.

Port capacity represented another of Hutt's priorities. She argued that the country must improve its freight transportation standards and promised to work toward that end because Chile is "at the limit at which these decisions can be taken."