Argentina set to restart works on infamous Sarmiento underground rail line

Friday, June 17, 2016

Alongside Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, transport minister Guillermo Dietrich announced a plan to begin excavations for the infamous conversion of more than 30km of the Sarmiento railway line into an underground route, works on which have long been abandoned.

A tunnel boring machine dubbed La Argentina will being operating in September, beginning excavation of the 22km tunnel connecting Castelar and Caballito in capital Buenos Aires, local newspaper La Nación reported.

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"In five years we're going to finish this work and thus counteract the political paralysis that meant a 10-year delay in the management of a project that is vital for millions of people," Dietrich was quoted as saying by the daily.

"The beginning of the excavations, which never took place, was announced six times in the last decade and, despite that, it has cost almost US$100mn," he added.

Construction works is to take place in three stages, and was awarded to Consorcio Nuevo Sarmiento UTE, comprised by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, Argentine firm IECSA, Spain's Comsa and Italy's Ghella.

The first stage of the project involves the 16.7km stretch between Caballito to Haedo, with the second running 4.0km between Haedo and Castelar, and the third between Castelar and Moreno, which covers more than 14km.

The project has faced a series of challenges over the years, including freezing of financing by Brazil's national development bank BNDES, which has been facing difficulties in the Brazilian domestic economy, who was to provide financing for the project, in addition to technical, environmental and urban issues.

Early press reports from 2011 estimated the cost of the project at US$2.86bn, but later US$3bn was pledged equally between BNDES and the Argentine government. The project was originally set to be ready in mid-2015, as reported by BNamericas Risk Analytics.

If the project schedule is followed this time, works will be finished in 2021 and it will generate 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.