The Pacific corridor: Colombia's bet to boost rail transport

Bnamericas Published: Friday, January 06, 2023
The Pacific corridor: Colombia's bet to boost rail transport

President Gustavo Petro's government, which took office last August, is committed to the revival of the rail industry for both freight and passenger transport in Colombia.

One of the country's big bets to boost this sector is the Pacific railroad corridor. This network will have a total length of around 850km, running from Buenaventura port on the southeast coast to La Felisa in Caldas department, approximately 100km south of Medellín.

From there, the corridor is planned to connect with the 2,300km Central rail network that crosses the middle of the country through Santander, Boyacá, Antioquia, Cundinamarca, Caldas, Huila and Tolima departments, and then the 600km Atlantic rail corridor that reaches the ports on Colombia's northern coast. 

The prefeasibility studies for the Pacific corridor will be carried out by state financial development agency (FDN), which signed a 15-month, 24bn-peso (US$5mn) contract with national infrastructure agency ANI for that purpose at the end of December.

The works to put the Pacific rail corridor in operation are part of the government's goal of improving and reducing the cost of freight transportation and revitalizing regional economies, according to ANI president William Camargo.

Connecting Colombia's Pacific and Atlantic coasts via rail lines was one of Petro's campaign promises.


Colombia's current rail network covers around 3,500km and complements road and river transportation, but significant parts of the lines suffer from lack of maintenance, with various sections currently unused due to insufficient investment and the national focus on upgrading the highway network in recent decades.

The country's rail master plan, published by the government through national planning department DNP (available here, in Spanish), addresses both rail cargo and passenger transport. It also outlines various national intermodal projects to boost Colombia's competitiveness and take advantage of its privileged geographic location at the axis of North and South America.

According to the master plan, the reactivation of railroads would generate significant advantages for heavy industry and high-volume cargo, improving logistics and cutting transportation costs and times between national production centers and the Atlantic and Pacific ports.

The reactivation of the country's main rail corridors, combined with the use of trade facilitation measures, could allow the costs of foreign trade to be reduced by up to 26% by the year 2030, according to a study by Colombia's national council for economic and social policy (Conpes) and the DNP.

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