San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Plans for Electric Train System Rolling Ahead

Plans for an electric train in San José appear to be moving ahead smoothly.

Just over two months after the Heredia – San José diesel train began service, albeit almost a year later than originally promised, the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) is on schedule with plans for the Electric Metropolitan Train (TREM).

During a conference in San José on Tuesday, the ministry presented a draft of the requirements for building and operating the train to 11 foreign companies interested in implementing the project.

The estimated cost of the train is $345 million. The Costa Rican government will contribute $100 million of that amount through a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

These funds will be used for repairs to rails that are already in place between Heredia, north of San José, and San Pedro, east of San José, and to La Sabana Park, on the western edge of San José.

The winning bidder will be responsible for funding the remaining $245 million and the purchase of 18 electric trains of four cars each, with a capacity of 340 passengers per car. MOPT will also require the company to complete phase one of the project – the 10 kilometers between the new HerediaHospital and the Atlantic Station near the center of San José – by the year 2013.

The company chosen will receive a concession to operate the train for 35 years from the start date of service.

The National Concessions Council (CNC) must award the project by mid- 2010 to allow for the 2013 start date.

MOPT Minister Karla González said in a press release that the government is prepared to meet that deadline.

“We are complying with all the steps of the feasibility study, and we will hand the project over in time.”

González noted that the final draft of the project requirements will be completed at the end of October, and they will be published and presented to the competing companies by the end of November.

Of those 11 companies present at Tuesday’s meeting, six have prior experience building and operating trains, according to the CNC.

Those six are CAF of Spain, Alston of France, Inekon Group of the CzechRepublic, Bombardier of Canada, Siemens of Germany and Daebon Engineering Company –Hyundai Rotem of South Korea.

The TREM will run along railways that already exist and with trains that already operate between Heredia and San José and between La Sabana and San Pedro. Both routes have only one set of tracks. Upon completion of the TREM, tracks will run parallel to each other to allow trains to travel in both directions simultaneously.

According to current plans, the parallel rails will provide service every six minutes during morning and evening rush hours and every 12 minutes during what MOPT calls “valley hours,” roughly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eduardo Brenes, director of the Regional and Urban Plan for the Greater Metropolitan Area (PRUGAM), said the diesel trains that currently occupy the rails will continue running when the TREM is complete.

Although no trains connect important cities – such as Alajuela, northwest of San José, or Cartago, east of San José – to the capital city’s center, Brenes said he dos not consider the TREM to be a double investment in an existing system, to the neglect of expanding the reach of rail service to new areas.

“These rails will just be phase one, and then they will consider how to connect the rest of the cities,” he said. “The train is the spinal chord for our metropolitan area. Continuing with what we’ve already started seems to make the most sense.”

In September, the Costa Rican Railway Institute (INCOFER) announced plans for a diesel train route that would loop through Alajuela and extend to Cartago. Brenes said the electric TREM project could possibly follow a similar plan in the future.


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