Bolivia readies US$450mn Cochabamba LRT

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bolivia plans to sign a contract next week for the delayed US$447mn Cochabamba railway project, as President Evo Morales seeks to modernize infrastructure.

The 42km project to be built by Spain's JOCA and Molinari Rail of Switzerland will feature 43 stations along three lines linking half-a-dozen municipalities in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third-largest city, public works minister Milton Claros said. A dozen trains will haul five carriages with capacity for 200 passengers each, according to the Cochabamba regional government website.

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"The Cochabamba metropolitan railway is a government commitment to provide a solution for mass transit," Claros told state-owned Radio Patria Nueva. "The project is guaranteed, there are no problems."

The three-year project, which secured financing in May from investment bank Credit Suisse and German state development bank KfW, saw its price tag slashed from an original US$630mn estimate as the government will provide part of the funding to avoid paying interests on a US$52mn import insurance, Claros said.

The government annulled the original tender awarded to JOCA in 2015 before calling a new bid round in November 2016, which was won by the JOCA-Molinari consortium.

Cochabamba is home to some of the country's main natural gas fields and is also a manufacturing base and key farming region.

Morales' government, which plans to increase public spending to US$8.23bn this year from US$6.01bn in 2016, is pushing for a series of rail projects including the US$20.0bn bioceanic corridor and the US$750mn Santa Cruz railway.

While Morales has pledged US$48.6bn in infrastructure and energy investments over the next five years, his government is struggling to line up financing as economic growth has slowed. Bolivia, which depends on natural gas for half its export revenue, saw export revenue drop 19% to US$7.21bn last year.

Claros met last week with Argentine transport minister Guillermo Dietrich to discuss Argentina's possible involvement in the bioceanic rail project, which seeks to link up Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru.