San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
public transportation

Legislative Assembly passes bill to jumpstart electric train system

Costa Rica’s publicly-owned rail company has been given the green light to contract with private companies to create an electric rail system that the government hopes will help the country reduce carbon emissions and ease pressure on the country’s desperately choked roadways.

The Legislative Assembly passed a long-awaited bill on Tuesday designed to modernize the Costa Rican Railroad Institute, or INCOFER, and allow it to incur debt equivalent to up to 40 percent of its assets to build an electric train system. Trains would be for passengers and cargo, and the line would stretch from Cartago in the east to Alajuela in the west, and eventually to Orotina.

The bill is designed to make it easier for INCOFER to enter into public-private partnerships to make the project happen.

The bill also authorizes INCOFER to promote the construction of a cross-country electric train, which would run from La Cruz, Guanacaste on the northern Pacific Coast to the Caribbean port of Moín.

An electric train system for Costa Rica’s Greater Metropolitan Area, which includes the cities of San José, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago, is a major piece of this administration’s carbon emissions reduction plan. Automobile emissions account for 40 percent of the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

President Luis Guillermo Solís is also banking on an improved commuter rail system to help reduce ever-worsening traffic congestion in and around San José.

A train sits outside the Estación Atlántico in downtown San José.

Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

A bill to jumpstart an improved rail system was first introduced in 2011 but suffered numerous setbacks. Details on the proposed electric train system are still scant and some critics say there are smarter alternatives for improving public transportation in the metropolitan area, such as a rapid bus line.

Still, INCOFER’s need for modernization was put on display last month when two trains collided just west of La Sabana Park in San José, injuring more than 100 people. The accident was initially blamed on conductor error, and INCOFER director Guillermo Santana told daily La Nación at the time that trains lack GPS locators and that conductors must use radios to report their movements.

A government investigation into the incident has yet to be made public.

Contact Jill Replogle at jillrep@ticotimes.net53

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Electric trains while possibly a good idea is nothing more than another boondoggle. The spin is to reduce air polution form the trains. The reality is that INCOFER has know for over three years a way to reduce the polution caused by their trains by a minimum of 30% and at no cost to the tax payer. Why hasn’t this happened. The answer is there is nothing to skim the chroiso off of so there is no interest. These are the facts and anyone willing to do a little research on their own can confirm this. Follow the money.

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In a country that is now known for corruption and violence along with its beauty and natural resources, to allow a public entity to incur debt from private entities equates to nothing more than a license to steal from people.

#1. Costa Rica should modernize public transportation first, before expanding. Starting with the busses.

#2. Make bus fares free to all registered car owners, and even licensed drivers. You must entice owners and drivers wether it be long term or short term(a few years) to allow time to expand on infrastructure(roads & rails).

#3. When I say modernize(busses), I mean comfort, convenience, and efficiency.

#4. Mafia Taxistas, the government must take control. Taxis are a form of public transportation, there for being a form of public service, meaning a taxi driver is a public servant in one form or another, AND NOT GANGSTERS! The government must get control(busses and taxis are run by organized crime).

#5. Create a tax on fuel to pay for a government owned public transportation(busses) free for Ticos(Mon.-Fri.).

#6. As things stand this bill will allow corrupt entities to loot what little assets INCOFER does have resulting in a failed system that Ticos will have to bail out.

That 40% will end up being 100+%, only to be blamed on accounting errors before the final tallying is in.

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