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Venezuelan Government Advances in Construction of National Rail Network

Mérida, September 25th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) –  The Venezuelan government is advancing in the construction of five long distance railway lines, which are part of its National Railway Development Plan 2006-2030. The plan hopes to see 13,665 kilometres of train line linking the country’s various regions and main cities by 2030.

Venezuelans depend on mostly private buses to travel interstate, as well as both private and public airlines between some cities. The national railway system will function both as human and goods transport. The plan also aims to take cars off Venezuela’s clogged freeways and decentralise its population away from Caracas and other major cities, which the government has stated implies social and economic development along the lines as well.

In 2010 President Hugo Chavez said the project is a long term one, and it is hoped that by 2030 the trains will transport 240 million people per year.

Yesterday the president of the State Railway Institute (IFE), Franklin Perez, gave an update on the plan’s progress. He said the railway linking Puerto Cabello (on the north coast) and La Encrucijada (to the east), 128.8km in total, is 67.23% complete.

Perez said that at the end of this month they will conduct trial runs of the trains along that stretch of railway, and that it should be complete in two years.

The plan also involves making improvements on railway heading south from Puerto Cabello, to Barquisimeto, Yaritagua, and Acarigua. According to Perez the government is relocating residents near the line before it begins operations.

“64 housing units have already been handed over, and we are currently building 64 more. However, we have paid compensation to other [families] so that they leave the area. There are a total of 3,000 families that need to be relocated,” Perez said.

One of the longest lines under construction, between Anaco in Anzoategui state, and Tinaco in Cojedes, 468km in total, is being constructed by the China Railway Engineering Corporation, and is 20% complete, according to Perez.

He explained that the construction of railway networks involves large amounts of investment, US$10 billion in the case of the Tinaco-Anaco line.

Meanwhile, the Italian Companies Group (GEI) is working on the lines from Chaguaramas to Cabruta, and San Juan de los Morros to San Fernando de Apure, both north to south lines through Guarico state. Regarding these lines, Perez said that they are in the “maintenance stage”, as the government is going to “consolidate” the central lines first before “heading towards the south”.

Chavez hopes to ultimately build lines that extend from Barquisimeto, through Carabobo, and then on to the Caracas metro. “That requires some US$300 billion,” said Perez.

Chavez also recently announced the approval of US$300 million in funding to buy more trains, made in Japan, which should start to arrive in the country as of next year. These will be for the Caracas-Tuy Medio line, 41.4 km, which the government completed in 2006 after work on it was paralysed for various years under the previous government. It was the first new railroad in 70 years.

“A railway system wasn’t developed here before because for the foreign interests, the commercialisation of freight trucks was more important than a system of mass transport that benefited the people,” Perez said.

Chavez stressed that such public works don’t just have technical functions but they also have social aspects, and the impact on the environment and on those living near the new railway lines has to also be taken into account.

“We shouldn’t limit ourselves to just constructing roads or railways. Either we transform the entire reality or we transform nothing,” he said.

So far the Bolivarian government has constructed 91 km of railway line, compared to 45.6 km under previous governments, from 1958 to 1998. It has also built a tramway system in Merida state, and two cable car systems in Caracas.

Published on Sep 25th 2012 at 6.44pm