March 24, 2009 (venezuelanalysis.com)– Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez inaugurated the construction of a 290-mile rail project in central Venezuela on Sunday, one of 15 major rail lines his government plans to build over the next two decades.
The construction of the vast rail system is “one of the signs of the new Venezuela,” Chavez said, during his weekly radio and television broadcast. “We’re connecting our entire national territory.”
The new line will stretch from the city of Anaco in the eastern state of Anzoategui, through Guarico and Aragua, to the town of Tinaco in Cojedes state. It is expected to be operational in 2012, with a maximum speed of 137 mph, and its construction will create 1,800 jobs, according to government statistics.
The Chavez administration’s “National Railway Development Plan” will comprise nearly 8,500 miles of railway upon its expected completion in 2030, including 379 stations and 548 trains. It will be able to transport around 210 million passengers and 190 million tons of cargo each year.
The rail system is being built in cooperation with Chinese and Italian technology, with the former providing technological know-how to Venezuela, working with Chavez’s government to create factories in the country to produce train cars and tracks, and eventually locomotives.
Chavez has repeatedly insisted that foreign companies contracted by the government must help expand the South American nation’s technological expertise. “It’s unacceptable for a company to be working here, with us paying and paying, without transferring technology to us,” Chavez proclaimed. “If a company doesn’t want to, they can pack their bags.”
The 800 million dollar cost of the Anaco-Tinaco rail line is financed by the China-Venezuela Strategic Development Fund, created in May 2008 to increase economic cooperation between the two nations.
Present at the ceremony was Bai Zhongren, Vice President of the China Railway Group Ltd. in Venezuela, who informed that the Anaco-Tinaco rail line will transport around 5.8 million passengers each year. His company, one of the 500 largest businesses in the world, has constructed nearly 44,000 miles of railway in China, he added.
Also in attendance was Zhang Tuo, China’s ambassador to Venezuela, who affirmed that Venezuela’s rail system would be among “the most modern in the world.”