Spotlight: Panama's US$2.8bn new metro line

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Spotlight: Panama's US$2.8bn new metro line

Panama metro line No. 3, a project for which capex has been put at around US$3bn, is advancing but has run into technical problems, meaning that it is struggling to stay on schedule. 

The line will run east-west across the city, connecting the capital to the Arraiján district on the western side of the Panama Canal. 

The first stage of the monorail line is 24.5km long and includes 14 new stations, according to information published by operator Metro de Panamá. A second stage will add a 15th station. 

However, a map later published by the consortium that won the construction contract lists only 11 stations in the first stage.

The project was awarded in February 2020 to Consortium HPH Joint Venture, which includes the companies Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Posco Engineering & Construction and Hyundai Engineering Corp.

Nearly 5.3km of the line will be underground, but the geological conditions in that area mean that specialized tunneling machinery must be built, which has made it a challenge to meet the schedule of the project. 

Consortium HPH signed a contract with German company Herrenknecht to acquire a tunnel-boring machine that is specially designed to build the underground section of line No. 3, according to Metro de Panamá authorities quoted by newspaper El Siglo. 

Manufacture of the necessary machine parts reportedly started in July this year and will be completed in May next year. Shipping them to Panama is expected to take up to two months and assembling them could require another four months. 

“Neither line No. 3 nor its tunnel will be ready when the current administration ends [May 2024], because they are projects that last nearly 54 months in total, but they will be ready at the same time so they can both go into operation,” Panama's public works minister Rafael Sabonge was quoted as saying by TVN. 

The project also requires the acquisition of 28 trains of six cars each. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is expected to contribute to financing the rolling stock. 

Metro line 3 is designed to transport up to 20,000 users in each direction during peak times in the first stage and will reduce the the current 90-minute commuting time for users on the stretch by half.

According to the latest information published by the consortium, the project is now 26% complete with nine stations being built simultaneously, and is expected to be in full operation by 2026.

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