Costa Rica

Experts highlight issues of planned US$1.55bn Costa Rica light rail

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, May 13, 2021
Experts highlight issues of planned US$1.55bn Costa Rica light rail

Before works on Costa Rica’s US$1.55bn interurban light rail start, several issues related to transport infrastructure and expropriation, among others, must be solved, the college of engineers and architects (CFIA) said.

The CFIA has analyzed the rail’s feasibility studies, conducted by Spain’s IDOM and financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and published suggestions on Wednesday.

“In a project with the level of investment like this, it is necessary to consider the greatest optimization which means it must involve a multimodal integration system that includes trains, buses, taxis and other alternatives of motorized and non-motorized mobility,” according to the CFIA report.

Further information including tenders, financial models, design parameters, studies on electrification, telecommunication and bridges, demand, operational plans and cost analysis are needed, the CFIA said.

Plans to redraw buses lines have not been published, even though concessions for the services require approval by September.

The report said concession holders could demand compensation if contracts involved routes that would have to change because of the rail system.

Some bridges may also have to be expanded as the rail is double-track, and the number of expropriations, expected to be 450, needs to be confirmed. The CFIA cautioned that estimated daily demand of 200,000 commuters may change.

The government said the rail line will have to be completed by the next administration, while the first line is planned to be tendered by May 2022.

“Our administration will tender the [train], a project that will bring health, agility, savings and economic growth. In this way, the next administration will be able to build the first line of the project,” President Carlos Alvarado said in the government's latest progress report.

The 35-year concession will be tendered in a public and international bidding process.

The government will contribute US$550mn of the total investment through a loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (Cabei) and the tender winner the rest, although the company will also receive a subsidy of US$50-150mn per year.

According to current plans, the 84km rail involves five lines – Paraíso-Atlántico, Atlántico-Alajuela, Atlántico-Ciruelas, Alajuela-Ciruelas, Ciruelas-El Coyol – and will use railway institute Incofer's infrastructure.

Of the system’s 47 stations, at least 10 will be multimodal ones. The rail will connect the localities of Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia and capital San José. 

Photo credit: Costa Rica government

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